A new continent, a new blog

One of the most magnificent locations in the whole of South Africa, and the pride of Cape Town – the world-renowned Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, on the slopes of Devil’s Peak. This photo was taken this year on my last visit to the garden.

This blog served the wonderful purpose of allowing me to share images and memories of my life in Cape Town, South Africa. It lasted almost 10 years and in that time I drifted from ardently posting every day to slipping for a year or more without a post. It was a mood thing but if I showed my bad mood or whinged about anything I was reprimanded by friends so I tried to keep it as light as possible.

I love Cape Town, I love South Africa. Althought I wasn’t born there, it was my home for almost 60 years and it’s all I know, warts and all. I lived through apartheid, I witnessed the change to democracy, I sadly also witnessed, and still do so from afar, the deterioration into a state of corruption beyond anything ever imaged by the people who struggled and died for change from a regime that has been descrived as a crime against humanity. The current state incompetence and corruption could also be considered a crime against humanity but that’s a discussion for people with a more intellectual and analytical aptitude than I have.

I loved the country and although I became a bit scared of it at times, I would have been quite happy to stay there for the rest of my life. Every street I walk holds a memory, every landscape photo I see I can identify, everytime I go in public I am likely to see someone or something that is familiar to me, cultural references mean something to me, my friends are there, my parents are buried there, my son was born there, my memories are there, it’s the homeground of my adopted tribe.

But sadly, the pandemic took so much from me. For financial reasons I became homeless and jobless and savings-less. So when a cousin in France offered me her home to share and I saw that France, where I was born, will support me and will give me free healthcare, I found myself with little choice but to move here.

I had to sell all my belongings and bring only a few boxes. I am still in shock at how I went from owning a household of furniture and things to just a few boxes and suitcases. It’s disgusting how attached one can become to mere objects. I almost had to rehome or put down my beloved dog, Vida, but thanks to the intervention of a generous friend I have brought her with me and will see her very soon. I am surrounded by family, I have a home, I am fed and loved. My son is also here, albeit in another city, because he relocated months before I did.

I am homesick and a bit lost but that’ll pass, in time, to some extent.

I need to earn some money to supplement what the state will give me, and working even part time will give me reasons to get out of bed. Right now I tend to stay in bed too late and do nothing substantial with my days other than bare minimum housework and a daily walk around the neighbourhood. The latter is the highlight of my day. I look forward to doing it with my dog when she arrives.

I’ve started a new blog, at the behest of friends. Because food is a big thing in France and I happen to live with a cousin who cooks like a master chef, the blog will focus on food and I’ll share my cousin’s recipes, tips and methods.

Here is the new blog – leblogetlebouffe. Bouffe is a slang French word for food. It reminds one of a table laden with food and wine and many happy people partaking of it all for several hours of shared pleasure.

This is probably the last entry of this blog – if I return to South Africa for a holiday, as I would like, it’ll still form part of my new life.

Thank you for reading and a special thank you to my friends who followed and who encourage me to write!

Sea Point, where I gew up.

Stuff and the joys of decluttering

I haven’t written in over a month and this blog has moved away slightly from its original purpose. The past few months have been torrid and it’s been almost impossible to be or do anything not mired in depression and anxiety. One day I’ll look back on this period amzed at what I’ve endured. I hate cliches, but this, too, shall pass.

I’ve suffered dreadful depression and high anxiety for a few years. Not too long, just the past 5 or so years. I guess it was always there lurking underneath, but specific events and situations gave it life. I am on medication, I have to lecture myself all the time, I can erupt easily, and I cry easily. But the meds help. A lot.

I’ve had support and help from one friend in particular who I can say without any reservation has been my rock. Without him, I’d be dead. Maybe even literally, because suicide was on my mind for a long time. But really, really, on my mind. It was a fantasy solution that played itself over and over, something planned and ready to be executed. My rock understood, supported, gave advice, played the shrink, sent me to a real shrink, and did not recoil. Unlike some – oh my goodness, how some people are terrified of the word. The very notion that someone else might be suffering so much is just too much for them to deal with. They might as well tell you to shut up and suffer in silence, which as far as they are concerned, is the best way.

But I woke up one day, put on my big girl pants and decided I was *not* going to die. I found that last vestige of life and courage deep inside me and nurtured it. I also addressed one of the biggest problems facing me and dealt with it, once and for all. Like a big girl.

This big girl has also decided to make a major life change. I am relocating, very far away. Away from my comfort zone to a different, new, comfort, away from all that is familiar and off to the bosom of family. From the fear of old-age poverty to state sponsored medical care. From open spaces and unique vegetation to safety, security and seasonal salad. I’m going to need a new blog title and concept.

Relocating abroad means selling all your stuff. I can’t afford to spend loads of money on schlepping my junk halfway across the world and … guess what? I won’t need it! As tough as it is, I am realising that stuff is just stuff and I can live without most of it. I will take just enough to make me feel at home in my new home but the rest goes to worthy causes or gets exchanged for lucre. And the lucre goes towards the cost of taking what really matters, my beloved dog and that of my son who is already waiting for us all.

But, oh my word, the packing and the decisions and the realisation that my precious belongings are just junk in some peoples’ eyes. The majority of things that matter the most are items I either picked up on a beach or in a forest – what am I to do with my stone and shell collection? Or planted lovingly – I’ll never get to see the tree grow majestic. Or were given to me by my mother an eternity ago? How can I sell the art deco cups she very specifically said I must have and not my siblings? Who would buy the strange piece she painted during her Jackson Pollock period?

I think I do look forward to the day I have divested myself of most belongings. I know there will be a feeling of freedom and liberty. Me and a couple of suitcases, because a girl needs shoes and her big-girl panties, and my faithful dog, and off we will go!

Today marks one month before I move out of my house. That’ll be followed by 6 weeks in a temporary lodging, and then the adventure will begin with a long drive across the country … watch this space!

A plea for help to save a business

Well, that didn’t work out as planned. The Covid diary, that is.

When the virus poo hit the proverbial fan back in March this year, I read somewhere that one should keep a diary during lockdown because (a) it could last longer than expected and (b) we’ll forget details. So, I revived this blog and that was to be my diary.

It didn’t last long because after the first few weeks of baking and watching stats and Netflix and eating and eating, I hit a state of massive depression and realised that I was on the verge of turning my blog into a pity-party. So I stopped blogging.

Needless to say, I regret stopping because they were right – it did go on for bloody ever and I have forgotten many details. In these eight months, and counting, my household has seen despair, humour, love, anger and lots of food. We’ve run out of money, we’re not baking much anymore, we’ve spent autumn and winter staring at the four walls wondering if this is what life is all about.

Luckily, Spring came along – as it usually does after Winter, pandemic or no pandemic. The garden bloomed, the birds made loads of babies (yes, I became a bird watcher, lockdown does that to a person), and moods were lifted.

Christmas is almost upon us and I really have no idea where the time has gone. I haven’t worked in 8 months because there is still no tourism, even though borders are open. My target market is Europe but they’re back in lockdown for their second wave so not likely to be here any time soon.

So, this post is, after all, a pity-party because I need your help. I have not kept up the payments on my tourism vehicle and the bank is threatening to take it back. I have used up all my savings and I am desperate. So, the only way to keep my vehicle and save my business for when tourism starts again, is to crowdfund to pay the bank.

Here is the link to the crowdfunding site. The goal is in Euros which are almost 1-1 to the US dollar, and for South African rands it’s around 18 rand to 1 euro. So even 10 euros will make a difference. The payment button makes it seem as if only PayPal is accepted but it’s not; if you click on the PayPal button you’ll be taken to other options.

Thank you in advance and much love to all!

This is me with my son Paul. He’s a great lockdown cook and makes the best clafoutis in the world.
This is my friend Sheila. We ventured out last week to an art exhibition only to find it closed. We were rather annoyed because we had wasted petrol so we walked around the V&A Waterfront instead and took cheesy photos.
No blog post is complete without a photo of pets. Mine is the black one on the left, Vida, and the black and white one, Havana, is my son’s dog who lives with us.

Sharing the tourism love

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Last year the New York Times published a travel blog list of 52 places to visit and Cape Town was listed at number one. This is fabulous because of course the NYT is a publication with a huge following. This gave the tourism industry in South Africa something major to brag about and social media mentions must have ranked in the millions.

Today, another list gives the city of Durban the thumbs-up and everyone is crying into their morning coffee that Cape Town is ‘no longer the world’s favourite tourist city’. Huh?? How long was I in a coma for that I missed Cape Town receiving this award? It’s just lists of suggested places to visit!!

Wake up, people! We are NOT the centre of the universe! We receive a huge number of tourists and the stats show an increase year on year – all fabulous news because tourism is this city’s booming new growth industry (and I make my living from tourism!) but we have a long way to go before we beat the likes of Paris and Barcelona and New York and many others that have been popular tourist destinations for far longer than our mere 20 years.

We will grow from strength to strength but we have some work to do on the infrastructure and mechanism of tourism first:

– public transport is still not as handy and frequent as it should be, and it  doesn’t cover the entire region yet. You can’t even get a bus back from Kirstenbosch after the Sunday evening concerts.

– restaurants mostly offer excellent food but good service is not as consistent as it should be. Waiting on tables needs to be respected as a career, not a job for students.

– many wine estates close too early in summer. They’re ignoring the large number of visitors who might want to continue tasting wines between 5pm and 8pm when the sun sets.

– we are not being marketed properly! No-one seems to know how and where the budget is spent and SA Tourism is often accused of not doing a good job.

– the perception that crime is a deterrent. It isn’t really but it only takes a few people to spread a negative perception that tourists are all in danger. Yes, our crime rate is high but no, tourists are not in any specific danger if they just take common-sense precautions, as they should in all major cities.

– the industry is not regulated properly, if at all, and government is not seen as taking it as seriously as it should. A closer look at working conditions and the labour laws would be a good start.

– things that can’t be helped: we’re far away! Far from everywhere, the end of the world, air fares are therefore high, you can’t really nip down here for a week’s holiday.

So let’s not freak out at one list suddenly mentioning Durban as a great place – it is fabulous, we’re not losing anything, and we can share the tourists with that city (where the water is warm enough to swim in) .. and others, like Johannesburg where the country’s only Apartheid Museum is located, and the Kruger National Park which is the world’s most fabulous natural park for game viewing, and the Garden Route which is so aptly named, and the Wild Coast which is still wild and wonderful, and the West Coast which bursts into flower annually and isn’t built-up, and and and …

I was shocked to see how quick some people were to share this article with comments that almost gleefully highlight Cape Town’s omission from the list instead of being happy that Durban gets recognition. South Africans are often accused of self-loathing and this seems to show something like that.

Here’s the blog entry where Durban is mentioned. Note how Cuba is number 2 on the list. Does that make it the world’s second most popular city? I think not! Check out how they compiled the list here. It’s opinion-based for suggested destinations, not a list of places most visited. So Cape Town has never been the world’s favourite tourist city to visit and Durban is still not the world’s 7th most popular tourist city to visit – as one person on Twitter was adamant to state as ‘fact’.

And here are world tourism rankings – actual stats that show which places get the most visitors.

Perspective, okay?

cape of good hope

 

 

A day in Cape Town

Today didn’t start off too well … Robben Island ferry cancelled, clients waited for me at the wrong place, crazy crazy traffic jam, time wasted hanging around on Lion’s Head waiting for perfect conditions so one client could go paragliding (it never happened), and then more traffic as it took 45 minutes to travel 2 kms. At one point I thought my head was going to explode – headache, sinuses, hunger, heat, traffic – yay! But everything turned out well in the end and it was a good day because Cape Town is fabulous, warts and all.

1 Camps Bay

Camps Bay in all its glory – clients went nuts imitating Chinese photo-taking tourists on the rocks. They’re somewhere in this photo, in among the other tourists.

2 Signal Hill

Then I framed my clients on top of Signal Hill where, for some strange reason, we had the place to ourselves

3 Lions Head

Poor Lions’ Head – all scarred from last week’s fire. How the Kramat was saved is anyone’s guess – it’s the green-roofed building next to the centre path.

4 3 trees

Three lonesome trees at the top of the mountain.

5 owl

Poor little owl chick at Kirstenbosch. He lives in a plant basket hanging above the balcony at Vida e Cafe but has recently taken to jumping down to the balcony where visitors pick him up and touch him. I had to stop a woman who was trying to get it to sit on her arm but instead caused it to fall and roll around on this ledge. Eventually one of the baristas came and put it back in its basket. This is not going to end well as this bird has no fear of humans.

6 conservatory

I had the conservatory all to myself for a while (where was everyone today? Stuck on the roads in traffic?).

7 dylan lewis

One of the stunning Dylan Lewis sculptures at Kirstenbosch.

8 succulents

I thought I’d died and gone to heaven at the Kirstenbosch nursery. They’ve just received a huge shipment of succulents. Prices are not bad and there are some species I’ve been hankering after – I am there like a shot next week as soon as my clients leave.

9 the prom

There was no way on earth I was going to sit in traffic again to get home so I went to the Sea Point promenade to see what’s happening with the repairs to the section next to the Pav. I was told it should be finished in a week’s time. I thought it was just the paving being redone but it’s the whole wall and railings, quite a big job.

10 the prom

Even the beach is off-limits which I’m sure is being ignored by the regulars.

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I love how the construction fencing has been carefully placed around each of these trees that grow sideways and provide the best shade parking in town.

 

 

Vegetables, going full circle

Vegetable garden

Just over 350 years ago a vegetable garden was planted at the tip of Africa to replenish passing ships on their way to or from trading with the east. One thing led to another – mainly the colonials realising that this land could give them much more than fresh produce and water –   and now we have the country known as South Africa. (I’m leaving out quite a few events but suffice to say that the garden was the original reason for Europeans bothering to settle in what they considered to be a savage hostile land).

The Company’s Garden, as it is still called to this day, is much smaller now and is a lovely public space in the middle of the city with flowers and lawns and old trees. It’s known as the museum precinct as most of our best ones surround it.  Also the Houses of Parliament and many other beautiful old buildings.

But, the vegetables are coming back. I’m very excited to see the project has begun and can’t wait to see the final product. The waters running under the city from Table Mountain have been abandoned and the water runs wastefully into the ocean – Reclaim Camissa is a project that hopes to revive them, let’s give them all the help we can.

 

 

 

 

Goodwill

Dias Beach

My favourite Cape Point lookout spot – often overlooked by visitors.

I swore I would never ever conduct a Cape Point Tour in the week between Christmas and New Year, and certainly not on the day formerly known as Boxing Day and now known as the Day of Goodwill. No way would I EVER accept such a booking.

But of course, this year I did. So sue me, I can’t turn away work and the clients nagged.

I did it on ONE condition: we depart from their hotel no later than 07:30. Late the night before they were trying their luck with emails asking if we can leave at 08:00 because they didn’t feel like rushing breakfast. Not advised, I said, that half-hour could have a huge impact, but you’re the client…. ok ok they said, 07:30 it is.

So of course I had to drag them out of the breakfast room at 07:40 but we were soon on our way. No traffic, no queues, we were at Cape Point by 09:30 … no cars, no traffic, up and down to the lighthouse, not too many people, clients starting to think I lied, that I overstated the road congestion.

Until we drove out of the Cape Point reserve at about 11:30, and saw the queue of cars coming into the reserve.. the line stretched all the way to Smitswinkel Bay. Ha ha ha .. these people were going to sit in their cars for at least one hour, we laughed as we cruised by.

Boulders was busy and the parking lot full because of the popular little beach next to Boulders.  I directed clients and waited for them in an illegal parking spot, in the shade, as they made their way alone to the penguins. 45 minutes later they were back and we were off to Kalk Bay for lunch.

We decided on a short stroll along the beachfront before lunch. The sight of the little beach packed full of bathing bodies and frolicking children and fathers braaing and drinking beer right under the ‘no fires’ and ‘no alcohol’ sign and scolding mothers and pouty teens and passion gappers was something to behold. Almost all beaches were full that day but this is a very small beach with a railway line running above part of it and it is basically inside the small fishing harbour that makes Kalk Bay so pretty and famous – not your ordinary beach.

Lunch at Harbour House was excellent as always and it was a peaceful cool oasis after the heat and throng outside.

Clients were back at their hotel before 6pm happy and tired – mission accomplished and they were thrilled that I got them cracking so early in the day.

Disclaimer

A note to all accidental visitors:

I am not a photographer and do not claim to have any particular skills whatsoever in that department. I have enormous respect for those who can see the potential in a scene and can create a great photo. Good photography is an art, in my opinion.

I am just a happy snapper, I have no special lenses or accessories, my camera is very simple and it's usually best to leave the setting on auto.

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