Monday, January 31, 2011

Flowers in the house

Over at Small but Charming, Miss Jane is showing us the flowers in her house. She said she would show us hers today if we showed her ours, so...

Up above, not exactly in the house, and the house is not ours, either, since we are visiting, and I admit I cheated by picking these fowers from my mom's garden this morning to accompany our breakfast on the patio - but there they are: roses, yellow cosmos, gaura, fuchsia, scabiosa, linaria, soapwort, shasta daisies, Ruttyruspolia (you better believe it) and dahlias.

Above, the nerine my mom picked for my father's desk, which is really the dining table. The real desk in the real study is ignored. Too small. The nerine was grown from seed and lives in a pot with its friends. Blooms best when ignored.

Judging by the droopiness of the daisies the flowers below (in the rejected study) date back to early last week, but still, they count. They will be removed when my mom sees this picture. The zinnias and daisies are from the garden.

And finally, a yellow fling at the front door. The sunflowers are from Woolworths. I wish we had a Woolworths in New York.

So there they are. Now SHOW US YOUR FLOWERS!

You have till midnight, and since the world is a round place, some of you have more hours ahead than others. Sorry Australia...

Check out Jane's blog for other links to Monday flowers.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


...Cape Town style.

We went out for dinner with friends recently. As we slowed down near the restaurant, the car guard in the street (identified by his reflective vest) waved me to a stop. Where are you eateeng? he asked, in French-intoned African English. Bukhara, I smiled, Park 'ere, he ordered, waving to a space in which a coke bottle would feel squeezed. I reversed the borrowed BMW, swung in, we came to rest. Sharp! he said, thumbs up.

Sharp is good.

It could be a compliment -  about your clothes, your haircut...anything just so.

I felt pleased. 

Our car guard's name was Patrick - say it in French, Patreeck, presumably from Côte d'Ivoire, or Congo, or, or - and we would see him after dinner. Meantime we had good Northern Indian food. I used to love Buhkara but the service was quite bad, and the prices too high. It's over. Sad, because the food really is good. We found the sidewalk-parked 4 x 4 above on our way out.

I climbed into the back passenger seat, with Jay, letting Vince drive with Guy beside him for company. Patrick queried this arrangement. Why you are not driveeng?

I have been drinking, I said, omitting the details (2 glasses of Tokara-Elgin Sauvignon blanc, nice).

Patrick was not amused, and turned away sniffily after being tipped.

Somehow, my sharpness had worn off.

Notes for Bukhara, 33 Church Street: 

Prices: way too high given the service
Maitre d': gives the title a bad name
Waiter: effusive and inefficient
Food: stellar
Noise level: get some wall hangings and suck up some sound.


Eggplants, baby courgettes, thyme and basil from the garden. Tomatoes, peppers and garlic from Elsewhere. Add a little water, a little more olive oil, season, cover and cook in oven till soft, about 45 minutes.

If you uncover them to brown up a bit at high heat, do not forget them in the oven, like I did. They ended up as crispy little nibbles. So they became a roast lamb garnish, instead. Not exactly what I had intended. But no one knew. I guess now they do.

There is a proper recipe for ratatouille at 66 Square Feet (the Food).

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Billy of Bokramstrand

As I write this Vince and my father are climbing the mountain via India Venster. I've done it once before, but this time I passed. Too many scary bits for me plus a 5am wake up call. They were to have ascended with friends Herbert and Benita, but yesterday Herbet called on his way to rescue Benita, who had come off her bike in a gust of Cape wind, on Chapman's Peak (on the right in the picture above). She had been in serious straining for the Argus Cycle Tour. Result, fractured pelvis and bad lacerations to the arm. 

So only two walked up the mountain.

Meet Billy. Billy seems to be the ambassador of Bokramstrand, and attached himself to us the other day. I liked him. He fished quietly in the pools, gazing intently at minnows and looking at me speculatively from time to time. Several times a nose pressed gently to the back of my calf when I came to a stop, and it was Billy, saying, Get a move on, there is more to see.

We saw white-breasted plover chicks the size of fluffy golf balls, cormorants, gulls (hi, Guy), oyster catchers and four sizes of small fry in the shallows. The tide was out and a fog bank had started to roll in, even though we left home under bright blue skies and in blazing sunlight. The often turquoise sea was darker and moody, though still.

Ben the labrador would have loved to have come, but the beach is too much for him, now. His back legs cannot carry him far, though his spirit is willing. I had not thought that going with us last year really would be his last visit Bokramstrand.

This is one of the few places to find intact sea urchin shells. The pools between Bokramstrand and Noordhoek are shallow and quiet, the waves softened by a series of rock barriers. In them seaweed, anemones, mussels, limpets, snails and baby fish live together  in natural aquariums beyond which wetsuited crayfish poachers sometimes bob.We were told last year by a man on the beach that Cape clawless otters are still seen here.

If you need a dog to walk, go and find Billy. He will show you the things that matter. He doesn't talk much, and prefers it that you do not, either. He says it scares the fish.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Trees for February

This year I'll be writing a series of short pieces for AOL's Shelterpop about flowering trees for cold climates - with a selection for every month. February's flowering trees are up now. Wish me luck when we come round to January!

Mariam's Roti Roll

Mariam's Kitchen is a halal fast food restaurant on Heerengracht Street, the one that everyone thinks is the beginning of Adderley Street, on the harbour side of the fountain.

My cousin Andrea had been telling me about Mariam's masala steak sandwiches for at least a year and yesterday we met at the offices of Go!, and then crossed the street to order lunch.

As soon as Coz had pointed out that Mariam's also serves rotis, however, the steak sandwich disappeared from my radar. Cape Town fast food, with a heavy Malay influence, is rotis (pr. rooties).

The unleavened flatbread is made from atta flour, and wrapped around a spicy curry filling, in this case chicken. It was delicious. We ate at a bare bones picnic table in the concrete mall outside, beside a square where trees and sculptures of pedestrians share the paving stones and benches.

It was not fancy, but it was delicious. Honest food, served with a smile. A rare combination. Tomorrow I'll post the steak sandwich.

Mariam's Kitchen
33 Heenrengracht Street, Foreshore
Tel. 021 - 423-0772


After testing the wind at Tableview on a recent morning, Vince retired behind a dune to work on his groundhandling technique.  I tested my newspaper reading skills on the grass.

The wind was fresh, too much for paragliders and newspapers,  and we binned the experiment after a while and went to look at the water.

Capetoninas are yawning at this picture: booooooring, cliiiiiicheeeeee, yaaaaaaawn. Truth is, I have spent very little time at this end of Cape Town, far north of where my parents live. It's beautiful. Especially on an empty morning with a beach stretching forever.

We drove back to town past Milnerton, on the curve of Table Bay, and pulled in to see what we could see. A river emptying at extreme, spring low tide, into the bay.

Another view of the mountain. 

A beachcomber. He was looking carefully in the water, walking slowly. As if in a museum, hands behind the back.

Another beachcomber, also in a museum.

Walking ladies with a sausage dog, Cape Town and its harbour behind...

The Cape Town stadium, built for the World Cup...

And seagulls, also very involved with whatever was in the water and invisible to us.

Vince would like to go back, to run along the beach. I think he could run clean to Namibia.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Walking above Muizenberg

The wind blew us up the mountain.

Hard to reproduce the wind in pictures. 

The path was straight up, through Peck's Valley, which is really just a shallow dent between two peaks. Muizenberg - the beach and suburb - lay below us, and to our right sheer cliffs played host both to blanket-wrapped bergies sleeping at their feet and rock climbers clinging to their face. We trudged up the sandy steps to a saddle that promised more wind. It blew from behind and made the climb much easier. My hair blew straight forward past my ears, which were cooling off, rapidly.

Midsummer. Cape Town. Welcome to the party...

Fortunately, there were flowers, right on the path. Crouching down in front of them I could take pictures in the little wind pocket. Above, Gnidia juniperifolia. Tiny and precise and new to me. Below, easily identifiable Lobelia coronopifolia.

Another lobelia, but which?

Beneath a stone step, Erica cerinthoides, somehow always reminding me of the scary pink furry un-spider of dry places called a rooiman (redman)...

The ever present, delicate and orchid-like (but not even close) Polygola garcinii. I had to hold them to keep them still.

Struthiola, perhaps ciliata. I had never seen this pink and yellow one, and it appeared again and again. It promises night-scent.

Cape snow, Synocarpha vestita, little bushes of it everywhere, as Marijke had described in her post that inspired this walk, between the reedy restios, at the wind-gut-busting top. My ears were now cold, with the slight nausea that this brings. My never-used hoodie was brought into action.

It had been summer-warm when we left home. Really.

Still, I noticed the perfect blue, violet-sized and prolific Aristea africana (I think). From now on they accompanied our walk until we descended again.

We turned left at the top, and were blown sideways.

 Right past a Protea speciosa

The top was unexpected. Restios everywhere. Flat, blown sideways like a soft animal's pelt. Have I mentioned the wind?

We managed to get a bit lost, more paths criss-crossed the restios than we had anticipated and we landed up on an obscure one. But we knew in which direction we were headed and soon found our track again. Sudden voices behind a tree made me jump but they belonged to a woman and girl picnicking in a sheltered dip beside a dry stream.

That is where we passed the kusmalva (Pelargonium capitatum), above, that started my search for the origin of Malva pudding. Now that we were behind a ridge that separated us from the sea, the wind had stopped. It blew high above us, and it was beautifully silent. My ears warmed up in their hoodie.

Another pelargonium, P. longifolium. It blooms above invisible, dried up leaves, on long slender stalks.

Old faithful, Pelargonium cucullatum with its cupped leaves and bright flowers.

And the always-startling Pelargonium myhrrifolium var. coriandrifoilium, whose small frilled leaves retreat beneath the statuesque, pale flowers.

Nellie's Pool. Countless years in Cape Town and I had never walked here. The water was startling after the dry streams and fine sandy soil we had walked on. The quiet was broken only by the plops of frogs springing beneath the surface as we approached. I couldn't believe it, but here we found two oyster mushrooms growing on one of the windbent and lichenbearded trees leaning towards the water.

Getting hungry now, we walked on and branched off to the right to visit the Muizenberg Cave. The Frenchie went in, armed with his flashlight. I stayed above, a bit nervously. I didn't like the place and felt cornered. Then again, my own shadow makes me jump, sometimes.

Leaving the cave I managed to drop my sunglasses and we traipsed back up, missing them twice before Vincent scooped them up from the path. Wickering voices made me jump again, but they belonged to the same woman and child, now on their way to the cave.

I see this flower skeleton often and would like to see it in bloom, unless this is in bloom. Is it Dilatris pilansii?

We had now turned back towards the sea and False Bay sprang blue into view as we walked down Mimetes Valley.

Mimetes fimbriifolius, also called tree pagoda. Almost tree-like amongst the low fynbos, these beautiful plants were scattered all the way down the valley, and populated by Cape sugarbirds, who feed on the flowers' nectar.

Our tummies were growling and we looked for somewhere to eat. The wind had returned.

We sat on a natural rock bench at the foot of a large mimetes, with this gorgeous view ahead of us and quickly ate our sandwiches and drank our juice. 

I was now wrapped in a kikoi scarf and frustrated the Frenchie's gallant attempts to clothe me in his Canadian windbreaker. He would have frozen without it.

Petite and endemic Serruria villosa.

The size of a small fingernail, Diastella divaricata, like a doll's flower.

The big blue.

Small blue. Heliophila africana, maybe.

The Mountie and matching watsonia. It was very orange for the endemic W. tabularis, which is a pale salmon, which I am used to seeing on Table Mountain, but it might be a darker variation.

The view was spectacular. We were now high above Boyes Drive with Kalk Bay to the right and Muizenberg to the left. The arrow points the Main Road, right beside the sea.

As we descended it got warmer, and I shed my scarf and hoodie.

Back in the car, a ten minute drive home, and we were sitting on the patio sipping drinks.