Sunday, December 21, 2014

Out of South Africa

Some of the unpacking... And some last minute Christmas suggestions while we're at it.

Not pictured: the afternoon dark at 4pm several more books, another bottle of the delicious Inverroche Still Bay-made gin (blue box), and yet more soap. And there may or may not be thirsty cuttings from my mom's garden - free of pests, I checked very carefully - drinking up Harlem tap water in Dead Horse Bay bottles as we speak.

The Babylonstoren waterblommetjie is soap is very, very special. And I love Nocturnal Affair's ginger/lime sugar scrub.

The Sea Salt crackers. Positively the best crackers/biscuits I've ever eaten, from Woolworths.  The gelatin powder - odd. It is the easiest I've ever used: no lumps and bumps and swearwords as it forms a skin on top of the hot liquid and refuses to dissolve. Hence.

Black cat cards. I owe many. I ordered them specially.

Marmite cashews. Well. Some things can't be explained. My mother may have denuded Pick 'n Pay's stock on our behalf.

Enameled tin. I like it.

The Lion matches in fancy boxes - again - you had to have been there.

The invisible three glasses? Two may or may not (not, I suspect) be Woodstock (19th century) but the - unrelated - tumbler bears the old South African Airways Art Deco springbok emblem etched on its side.

Mostly, it has been the year of Books by Friends. Notably, Marijke's gorgeous and very, very good Indigenous Plant Palettes. It is going to be an invaluable reference book for me. If you are a South African gardener and do not yet own it, fix that at once and go and buy it. It is coffee table-worthy but also very practical. It would make a very special gift.

Kobus (and Jac de Viller)'s beautiful Strandveldfood is an inspiring collection of unique recipes and gorgeous images from South Africa's West Coast, with its characteristic contradictions of austerity and opulence brought together in stories on plates. Treat yourself to lunch at Oep ve Koep and perhaps the chef will sign a copy for you. Otherwise it is in stock in South African book shops and for Kindle on Amazon.

Ted Botha, author of Flat/White is a neighbor, not yet met - a fellow South African living in Harlem, who has just published a very entertaining book about life in his tenement. I wolfed half of it on the plane (before I fell asleep: I had three free seats to lie flat on!) and can't wait to down the second half. Available in shops in South Africa and for Kindle on Amazon.

There is more, but I am out of juice and running on fumes.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Blue days

When the summer wind lies down the days are so blue your heart breaks.

Kalk Bay is that other part of town I love very much.

We leave the city, soon, bound for the Northern Hemisphere and New York.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Bo Kaap's Happy Boys

We drove to the Atlas Trading Company in the Bo Kaap. I thought they might have the glass chimneys that are so good at shielding candles from wind on outdoor nights. The Trading Co. was closed. Today is a public holiday - The Day of Reconciliation. But we parked anyway, and walked the steep streets in the hot sun. We were too late for the noonday gun.

Mosques, minarets, cobbles...

....and thick old walls. Cool inside in summer.

                             Between the houses people gathered on corners. Something was up.

Then Shafiek (below, behind the tambourine, with painted face) asked us to take a picture of his crew. He told us that music was about to happen, so we stuck around.

We heard the sounds of a band coming up a hill.

And The Happy Boys arrived in a blast of brass and a jittering of tambourines. Kaapse Klopse. The big, big day is Tweede Nuwe Jaar (second new year), but today's was a celebration of an observance of sixteen days of activism regarding non-violence towards women and children (according to their Facebook page).

It felt good to be in Cape Town.

Higher up another troop was moving down the streets to make a union. We circled, and I sat in the shade while Vince took pictures.

Women directed the setting up of dozens of platters of sliced watermelon and spanspek, refreshment for the thirsty troops.

We retreated at last, hot and sunburned. 

I was left with an impression of community and friendliness, and the renewed conviction that this is one of the parts of Cape Town in which I would most like to live, given the chance. And all things being equal.

Which they are not. Of course.

But one can dream.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The blue tides at De Mond

The mouth of the Heuningnes (honey nest) River lay a few hundred metres from the cottage where we spent our strandveld nights, last week.

The place is called De Mond, the mouth - and towards the beach it turns wide and blue.

We visited first at low tide, walking far out onto the flats.

Three hours southeast of Cape Town and a few kilometres from Agulhas, the true southern tip of Africa, it is an empty place. 

...except for birds. Thousands of terns resettled as we walked.

The river arcs out and the tides push in through wide channels where fish jump.

On the white walls of the dunes that separate estuary from sea kelp gulls nest.

The Indian Ocean beyond falls onto the beach with surf we heard every night in our little cottage.

We walked far down the beach. 

We were met regularly by plastic water bottles blowing towards us from the south. Don't get me started on bottled water. 

By the time we had circled back a trickle of salt water was creeping back over the sand flats.

I turned from watching the sea to find our flipflops beginning to drift away.

We could have stayed longer.

But we headed back to the bench above our veld cottage to watch the estuary from a different vantage point.

...and to sip sundowners and eat nostalgic South African junkfood (I had no idea chipnicks still existed, but they do in Bredasdorp).

Plant, bird and road posts to follow.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


We really were unplugged. No laptops, no signal.

The Frenchman and I are back in Cape Town after a few days away near the very, very southern tip of Africa.

There was a lot of sky, there were horizons (whose memory is to be hoarded for the dark and enclosed Harlem days to come). There were fragrant dune plants. There were blue cranes whose rough calls in flight gave us a new thing to remember. There was a wide blue tide whose rising and retreating left exposed and hidden a vast sand canvas where flamingos and terns, salty plants, small fish and hermit crabs made daily new watery pictures. There was the sound of surf, always.

It was good, it was not enough, it was more than many have, it was very beautiful.

Thank you Don, for the suggestion.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The mountain

The Frenchman is in Constantia with me, and today we walked in the sun.

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