Tag Archives: Cape Town

DECEMBER 2019 : YEAR’S END IN CAPE TOWN


 

YIMG_20191214_131600_resized_20191214_031806280 (002)You may have noticed the absence of November’s Cape Town Round-up. Blame it on year-end fatigue. It’s been a difficult year in Cape Town and I’m not up for more reporting on our catalogue of on-going woes.

 
Long ago in Rhodesia, the farmers (who were never happy with the weather, the crops and the Government) used to sigh and say: Next year will be better. I sincerely hope so!

 
‘Tis the season to be jolly , proclaims the old song, so in that spirit, let me wish all my readers a warm and happy Christmas with family and friends, followed by a peaceful and healthy New Year.

13 Comments

Filed under DAILY LIFE IN CAPE TOWN, HUMOUR

THE ORCHID THIEF – Susan Orlean Book Review


download

For years I’ve been promising myself that when I’m in my dotage, housebound and no longer able to run around like I do now, I shall grow orchids. It’s something I’ve always fancied doing. However, I’m now having second thoughts, having read Susan Orlean’s account of all things orchid related in Florida, USA. Although, let’s face it, I don’t see orchid growing in Cape Town, South Africa, being one-hundredth as exciting as orchid growing in America.

It’s an extraordinary book.  No wonder it featured on the New York Times Bestseller list – I’ve never read anything like it in the non-fiction category. And by the way, difficult to believe it is non-fiction.  The book is hot, steamy,  lush  and colourful just like the Florida Keys where some of the events (I nearly said ‘action’) takes place. Throw in the  local Florida Seminole Indians who claim rights to anything on their tribal land i.e. the muddy, gator infested swamps, where orchids flourish. Add a band of orchid thieves, smugglers, growers and collectors, add a few adjectives like: manic , obsessive, passionate, and  conniving and you’ve got my  liveliest non-fiction read of 2015.

From early 1800s  to  the close of the 19th century, the heyday of orchid hunting and collecting, the chapter is titled “A Mortal Occupation”,  aptly titled, because the casualties were legion. Orchid hunting in the jungles of South America and Asia was perilous, ruthless, dangerous, life-threatening. If not from tropical disease, dangerous wildlife, hostile inhabitants then there were the  other orchid hunters to contend with. Many of the exploits of the orchid hunters read like episodes from an Indiana Jones adventures.

A Victorian orchid Grower, living in Britain  Frederick Sander, was ruthlessly competitive. He employed professional  orchid hunters who routinely gave up their lives to fuel his passion. His chief adversary was a German collector Carl Robelin, and these two Victorian orchid hunters went to extraordinary lengths to secure rare plants.

That old buccaneering, adventuring attitude to orchid collection appears to live on in the world of orchids.  The 21st century  orchid scene is rife with  burglaries, swindles, and  shenanigans  which would fit well into any of Carl Hiaasen’s Florida crime novels.

Who knew such beautiful flowers generated such passion, such criminality? Who knew that modern orchid shows attract orchid fanatics, some of whom are millionaires; some of whom bankrupt themselves in pursuit of their passion? At its height, in Europe, mid 1800s, the orchid craze surpassed the Dutch tulip craze of centuries ago.

Maybe I’d better start my orchid growing project now, whilst I’m still strong enough to fight off rival collectors?

Don’t miss this book: its hugely entertaining and informative. The book is not that recent, it was published in 1998, but it’s worth hunting down. (In the true spirit of orchid collecting!)

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under BOOK REVIEWS

MY BLOGOVERSARY – 100th POST


English: Caravan approaching Timbuktu in 1853 ...

English: Caravan approaching Timbuktu in 1853 (from Travels and Discoveries in Northern and Central Africa by Prof. Dr. Heinrich Barth, vol. iv, London 1858) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently a friend asked why I’d chosen Despatches from Timbuktu as my blog title?

I explained that I’d dreamed up and discarded lists of prospective blog titles. Somehow The Foxed Page, Lexical Kedgeree, or From Vellum to Paperback  weren’t right. None of them blew my hair back. And then, from who knows where, in floated Despatches from Timbuktu. I liked it. It was unusual, without being twee or crazy. It reflected the fact that I’m writing from the African continent (let’s not get picky about the fact that Timbuktu is 6000  kilometres from Cape Town; I did say Africa  remember?)

For as long as I can remember the name Timbuktu has had the aura of a place very far distant, immeasurably far away, an exotic foreign destination. In fact, as a child, I thought Timbuktu was a mythical place name that denoted beyond the back of beyond, if not the ends of the earth itself. It wasn’t until much later in my life when I realised that Timbuktu  genuinely existed  – what would we do without National Geographic? Thanks to DSTV’s Travel channel I was able to see its spiky towers, low mud houses, the dusty palms, the white robed turbanned figures, the whole North African thing … but it was still distant and exotic. Tick that box.

The more I rolled the name around in my head, the better it felt.  I wanted to write  about travel, about the unknown, about books,  about life, about anything and everything. I liked the word ‘despatches’. It speaks of  bulletins from bands of explorers –  urgent communications from  brave warriors sending news home from the battlefront – carrier pigeons, Morse code, crackly radio messages, sand-scoured bottles containing tightly curled parchment, rolling up onto the beach to be read by incredulous beachcombers …people and events  strange and distant, mirages hovering on the edges of history and dreams.

Lately I’ve noticed in an upswing on hits to my blog, particularly from unusual places like Egypt, I suspect it’s all to do with the troubles in Mali, the Islamist insurgents roaring around that part of Africa. Sorry guys – nothing in this blog about historic/scholarly/religious topics. Just book reviews, travel pieces, opinion pieces, a sprinkling of short-short fiction, and (no doubt, baffling to earnest political types) the exploits of my four-legged companion, the inimitable Chocolat.

My blog name will remain as is, unless I have another flash of inspiration and choose to change it. Chocolat suggests we change the name to Cat’s Chronicles, or Paws for Thought, but I’m ignoring her. So the religious zealots, the political plotters, the poli-sci students, the bearded weirdos,  will all have to continue grinding their teeth in frustration as they troll through my blog, hunting for the elusive nugget of information they’d hoped to find. Perhaps, en route, they might even enjoy a little of what they’ve read in their searches. I hope so.

That takes care of the casual searchers.  And now to my Regular Readers: thank you for following my myriad posts, for slogging through my travels, enduring my rants, reading my stories, mulling over my reviews.  I hope to continue entertaining and amusing you for many years to come.

Viva, the 100th Blog Post!

13 Comments

Filed under CHOCOLAT: MY CAT, HUMOUR, WRITING