Category Archives: EXPLORING CAPE TOWN

A PLAYDATE FOR MY INNER CHILD


 

When last did you take your Inner Child on a Playdate?  Nina and I took our Inner Children on an outing last week to the Two Oceans Aquarium, down at the Waterfront. Because Cape Town is situated on a Peninsula, it is literally bounded by two oceans: the Indian Ocean on the Eastern coast, and the Atlantic Ocean on the Western coast. Hence the name of our Aquarium. I live on the ‘cold side’ i.e. the Atlantic, and believe me, those waves are cold! I never swim on ‘my’ side – just paddling at the water’s edge is tinglingly painful  if not downright unpleasant.

Neither of us had visited the Aquarium for years, so we joined the heaving hordes of families, school  kids and tinies (it’s school holidays, so our visit was somewhat ill-timed, but never mind). On the upside, we got a very generous Pensioners’ discount at the ticket Office, so that offset the downside.

 

First stop was the penguin pool at feeding time. Nina couldn’t get over how the penguins patiently lined up waiting for the young lady to arrive with a pail full of fish. She  sat down on a rock, and carefully fed the birds, one by one, posting the fish down the birds’ open  beaks . Her colleague sat by her side, armed with a clipboard, and ticked off the dinner queue one by one. The penguins’ daily fish intake has to be carefully monitored.  Apparently each penguin has a unique pattern of black dots on their white chest feathers, which serve as identifiers. A sort of penguin fingerprint, if you like.

 

Next stop was the massive shark tank, where large sharks glided ominously by . The little kids were fascinated, noses pressed to glass. I’m not crazy about sharks. Periodically we lose a surfer or swimmer to a Great White in our coastal waters. I wish they’d stick to a diet of seals.

 

Way back in the mid 70s I saw Jaws at the movies, and nearly had a cardiac arrest.  The traumatic experience has remained firmly rooted in my memory.

 

Moving swiftly on, we  found the beautiful,  gaudy, small tropical fish. I love these, the bright colours and the exotic shapes. There’s a wonderful tubular display with a Perspex bubble mid-column into which small kids can crawl, stand up  and be surrounded by clouds of flitting fishes. Both Nina and I are short ladies, and we eyed the crawl space longingly, but  feared we might get stuck in the narrow entrance tunnel, so sanity prevailed and we dragged ourselves away to the dark, mirrored gallery,  displaying the jelly fish. They were also displayed in vertical tubes, and as you can see from the pics below, the effects were spectacular.

 

I’ve saved the best until last – the small sting rays.  My favourite was the huge tank where the diver was feeding the big fish and the rays. I can watch rays all day long. They glide so effortlessly through the water, gently undulating the edges of their bodies, which creates the illusion of flying.

 

 

 

And lastly: the Aquarium is plastered with posters reminding us to cut down on our use of plastic, and to re-cycle or dispose of the material with care. The oceans  are not a disposal dump for our careless trash!  Many of Cape Town’s beaches have  plastic  litter deposited by the incoming tides, I’m sorry to say. Apparently there are great floating rafts of plastic debris floating around mid-ocean. The Wiki link below provides info. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_garbage_patch

Thanks to Nina Ganci for all the pics.

 

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WOMEN WHO LIVE IN CARS


 

I recently saw  The Lady in the Van –  starring the incomparable Dame Maggie Smith. The film is a 2015 British comedy-drama film directed by Nicholas Hytner, written by Alan Bennett, with Alex Jennings giving a terrific performance as Bennett. Wikipedia says :

The Lady in the Van tells the true story of Alan Bennett‘s strained friendship with Miss Mary Shepherd, an eccentric homeless woman whom Bennett befriended in the 1970s before allowing her temporarily to park her Bedford van in the driveway of his Camden home. She stayed there for 15 years. As the story develops Bennett learns that Miss Shepherd is really Margaret Fairchild, a former gifted pupil of the pianist Alfred Cortot. She had played Chopin in a promenade concert, tried to become a nun, was committed to an institution by her brother, escaped, had an accident when her van was hit by a motorcyclist for which she believed herself to blame, and thereafter lived in fear of arrest.

What a story.  Imagine living in a van!  I certainly could not. Could you?  A camper-van holiday is one thing, even a three month long exploration of the USA in one of those  massive American  RVs is an option, but living in a vehicle for the foreseeable future?  I think not.

We have our own Lady living in a Vehicle, at my local shopping Centre. Not a van, but a white sedan, with a Gauteng number plate. It’s home to Sannie who spends her days wandering through  the Centre, occasionally  to be seen in the Wimpy, or the Coffee shop, exiting the supermarket clutching a small paper bag which obviously contains a meat-pie.

My first encounter with Sannie was early one morning . She was ranting and raving to thin air in the empty supermarket  parking lot. People started to gather aroundto see what the commotion was about . After a while the cops roared up, and attempted to reason with the agitated woman. At which point I had to leave, being en route to an appointment.

Some weeks after this episode, I plucked up courage and approached her one day, having  first checked that she seemed in a calm frame of mind. Due to my poor grasp of  Afrikaans I didn’t quite understand her story, which  was involved and  garbled, and I couldn’t really understand the gist of it. I told her I was worried for her safety, but she assured me she was fine, and slept “somewhere else”.  I didn’t pursue the matter further.  In South Africa, a woman sleeping in a car, alone, in a supermarket parking lot, is a very bad idea. Our national rape statistics are beyond dreadful.

I see her most days when I go to the shops, always neatly dressed in her blue denims, with her blonde hair done up in a plait and  worn around her head, like a Tyrolean milkmaid. Quite often she’s applied make-up, but her face is so weather-beaten from the fierce African sun that it’s not entirely successful.  But she tries. She’s clean and decent. She’s neatly dressed. Somewhat deranged, sure. But she tries.

Shoppers sometimes stand her to a cup of coffee, or a meal. One couple told me she was a schizophrenic, which may well be true. Sannie told me “she was waiting for her kids”. That’s sad. I wonder if her kids know the life their mother leads? Perhaps its been a long rocky road to this point in their family life, and they are exhausted beyond caring. Who knows? Our overloaded public health and social systems stagger along, they do their best, but there’s always cracks through which many people fall, and continue on downwards.

I’m counting my blessings.

Here’s a long distance pic of Sannie and her car. I felt it wouldn’t be right to sneak a close up of her,  but  if you stretch your eyes you can see the top of her head by the driver’s door. Her car is the white sedan directly under the tree in the foreground, with the pole behind it. BTW: I have changed her name to protect her identity.

 

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MY NEW BOOK-THEMED BLOG


 

I subscribe to a number of WordPress blogs about books and reading,  and after enjoying them for several years, it finally dawned on me that maybe I should identify the book-related material in my  own blog  and start a second blog, devoted to books. Ping! Lightbulb flash.

So: I’m happy to announce the launch of THE BOOKSMITH BLOG  http://thebooksmithblog.wordpress.com .  Thanks again to WordPress.com for their blogging platform.  They really do make blogging easy for  wrinkly writers like yours truly. I hope you visit my new blog, even if you’re not an official Booknut like me.  If all else fails, it has quite a funny header pic.

Despatches from Timbuktu  will continue to act as my electronic soapbox where I comment on modern life, South Africa, social trends, my travels around the Western Cape and Cape Town, plus  anything else that might  attract my butterfly attention.

And not to overlook the fact that Despatches From Timbuktu  is  the one place where Chocolat can express her displeasure at my poor performance as her Personal Assistant. Sorry, Chocolat,  but you have no idea how much work building a new blog entails . I promise there’ll be fish for supper tonight. How’s that for an apology?

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 MILNERTON FLEA MARKET


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The ferocious wind blasts straight off Table Bay, over the tangled grey concrete dolosse , doesn’t even pause at the barrier, roars into the market ground, driving a stinging curtain of sand, that patters on impact and abrades exposed human skin. No wonder the vendors are dressed in long sleeved shirts and windcheaters, despite the blue skies and sunshine.

The wind tears at vendors’ hats, but they’re  secured by elastic under the chin, regardless of appearance or fashion. So the wind swirls papers and plastic bags up, up and away; it thrums through  guy-ropes on gazebos,  and whistles keenly around the corner of bakkies. It whisks playfully around the blue flames on the gas braais, but doesn’t quite succeed in extinguishing the flames. The mounds of onions are browning in the frying pans,  teaming up with the aroma of sizzling boerewors on the braai grids. Oom Chris ‘s khaki fishing hat is jammed low over his ears, his red face a study in concentration as he guards his wors against over-cooking. Tannie Marie is flitting between the onion frying, and scraping minimal marg onto hotdog rolls. The smell is intoxicating.

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Down the line the Muslim ladies are setting up their stall.  No spicy daaltjies today, worse luck. Only  sweet, sticky, pink coconut-coated koeksusters. Next to the foodstalls there’s a display of shiny silver pressure cookers, obviously new, laid out in a neat row on a tarp spread on the ground. Did they fall (conveniently) off the back of a lorry, into enterprising hands?

Another suspicious display is an entire stall of branded cleaning products – no wonder those red, white and blue labels look so familiar, they’re well known products that are standard supermarket merchandise.  Hmmmm. How did they arrive at the market … perhaps best not to enquire.

Many of the vendors have rickety trestle tables piled with bric-a-brac, rusted cake tins, baking tins, tarnished egg beaters, odds and sods: in a word – junk. There’s mechanical junk laid on tarps at ground level:assortments of nuts, bolts, washers, rods, rusty tools, lengths of piping, angle-iron off-cuts, bits of this and that. Most of these items are beyond second-hand, and only fit for the scrap heap. Maybe that’s where they came from!

A man picks up a battered pick-axe, and bounces it experimentally up and down on the ground, over and over. Donk-donk-donk. What’s he testing? The strength of the handle? Or to see if the metal head is cracked? At the rate he’s going, it soon will be! His actions are driving a nearby Jack Russell absolutely nuts. The little dog is straining desperately against his collar and the rope that’s attached to his owner’s bakkie wing-mirror. The dog is dying to race over to the man and do something – anything – about that bouncing pick-axe, but even his manic terrier strength cannot break a nylon rope.  But the wing mirror strut may well break before the rope does!

Striding through the market is a lady in full purdah get-up, with only a narrow slit for her eyes, and they’re hidden behind dark glasses.  She’s even wearing black gloves but  surprisingly, white ankle socks and cream coloured shoes.  Tall, black and mysterious,  she’s a complete contrast to the shopping couples – the men in shorts, tees and shades; the women in strappy tops, cute short skirts, flip-flops displaying varnished toenails  – summer holiday gear for the shoppers,  but not for the traders who have to withstand the buffeting wind all day.

The Parking Attendants are all senior citizens – weather beaten and tanned to an inch of their lives, puffing gamely on their cigarettes, despite the gale force wind. Two sunburnt, wrinkly women are sheltering behind a big double-cab 4×4 having a smoke, and engaged in a  dramatic recital of a complicated family saga that is punctuated with So I said, Charmayne, you can’t do that! And she said … but the wind blows away the tale of woe, along with streamers of cigarette smoke.

Two young guys roar away on their motor-bikes, spinning up loose gravel as they plunge onto the R27.  The noon gun booms from Lions Head.  Seagulls are squabbling over a discarded boerie roll. Time to get out of the wind, go home for lunch and come bargain-hunting again next week!

 

http://www.milnertonfleamarket.co.za/

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