Lockdown, day 365

Midnight tonight marks one year since South Africa went into hard lockdown to ward off the dreaded Corona virus. It’s hard to believe how time has flown. Firstly, let’s be clear on one thing – we did not ward anything off. All we achieved is to slow it down, prepare hospitals and minimise the number of deaths. Actual infections are far far higher than officially recorded, some regions’ health systems have completely collapsed (not entirely due to Covid), and many people have lost everything. Everything – that means jobs, homes and loved ones.

I won’t go into what I’ve lost but suffice to say it’s been a nightmare of a year and as I type this we are waiting to hear what new regulations and restrictions will be put in place ahead of Easter. Easter is when South Africans act as if they haven’t just had a 3-week holiday just two and a half months ago and they sell their granny’s jewels to take the longest holiday they can squeeze into 2 days of actual paid days off work. They hit the roads like lemmings; all going in the same direction so they can all gather on the same beaches and meet all the same people they see at home every other day of the year. They die in road accidents in their hundreds per province and this year will also pick up the virus to bring home and spread at work. The poor do the same thing except they pack into sardine can minibuses so it all spreads faster and wider.

So yes, a third wave is about to hit us. Some say like a tsunami. I have a glimmer of hope in humanity and common sense and that people will have learnt to not be total dicks next time around.

And everyone will complain when the President announces restrictions to try prevent as much damage as possible.

Oh lockdown .. thou art a bitch.

I have spent most of this past year pottering around in my garden and baking. The garden is lovely and I am as round as a little piglet. As I type this, my latest easy-peasy favourite dessert is in the oven – a peach cobbler. See photos of a few recent ones, below. I’ve lost count of how many I’ve made this past year. I always attack the corner first, that’s where the crunchiest bits are.

  • Recipe: 1 cup flour – 1 cup sugar – pinch salt – teaspoon vanilla essence – half a teaspoon baking powder – 1 cup milk.
  • Mix all dry ingredients and vanilla, add the milk.
  • 60g butter, melted in bottom of baking dish in the oven while preheating to 180 degrees C. (Don’t let it burn but allow it to bubble a little bit).
  • Place 2 cups sliced fruit (peaches and/or plums are the best, apples and pears work too) in the dish on melted butter, and then pour the mixture over.
  • Bake for 45 minutes.
  • Break off cunchy corner as soon as humanly possible and blame the mouse or dog. Or just call it cook’s privilege.

After several days of excessive heat it’s raining today – and very welcome rain it is, too, because it was dry and wind-blown. On that note, here are some photos of my friend Frank’s FABULOUS garden. It’s small but packed with special plants and bulbs and a pond and all sorts of wonderful little nooks and crannies. Frank is also a tour guide, one who specialises in hiking and field trips to floral regions. He knows more about South African plants than anyone else I know. I had lunch at his home recently and snapped a few pics with my cell phone.

2020, when humanity was defined by a virus

Two excellent series of photos, from around the world, that feature the horror that was 2020. When this year started we thought nothing could be worse than the fires in Australia. Little did we know what was raging silently in Wuhan. Through sheer co-incidence, in January, on a Facebook post in which people were mocking the virus in China, I saw a comment by someone whose name was familiar. I looked at his profile and recognised him as having once been the manager of a restaurant I visited regularly. Now he was posting, on and off via VPN, from Wuhan. I sent him a message of support and we communicated for a while.

He told me how he and his partner were locked down in their small flat, food was delivered daily, he was able to continue teaching online, they had no idea how long it would last, they were scared, they hoped it would be contained in China. If I didn’t hear from him for a few days I would worry, but each time it turned out ok, he had simply been locked out of his VPN. Eventually, he evacuated Wuhan but chose to not return to South Africa, and went to Hong Kong instead.

And as it rained in Australia and a kaola bear became a celebrity representing the 5,000 others that died, so the virus spread throughout the world. And here we now sit, speechless, terrified and horrified at the stupidity of those who refuse to comply with safety precautions and have therefore made it much much worse than it needed to be. Some of them are even presidents of their countries. History will not remember them well, not any of them.

It’s New Year’s Eve in a few days and many more will become infected as they party. It’s holiday season and many people have insisted on going on holiday despite the danger to themselves and others. There are rumours of another presidential announcement tonight – I’m not sure if that’s true and all I can think that he might announce is a tighter curfew and another total ban on alcohol. It’s necessary because hospital trauma units are bursting with drunken drivers and drunken brawlers, but does the government have the will to do that, and what difference can it make to New Year’s Eve at this stage?

A friend visiting from Europe wants to meet me for lunch this week. I’d love to see him but he’s been socialising with friends and family so I dare not. And yet, so many people I know have been out and about non-stop for months without getting sick, and continue to do so. The chances are some will fall ill sooner or later. Some may even die.

Yes, I am resentful. Very very much so. I resent being locked up like a prisoner because others are excessive. Because others don’t wear masks. Because others drink too much alcohol. Because others hate their own company so much that they can’t stay at home. I am angry, too. Because many are too poor to isolate. Because there is stigma attached to having the virus. Because some people have to work, even when sick, to serve those who want to socialise. I’m fucking angry that when people said the economy must be restarted, they meant their workers must go and turn the wheels, and those workers are now dying like flies.

I used to think a lack of compliance was from ignorance, even on the part of those who have access to information. But I was wrong. Everything I have read, everything I have been told, every question I have asked, all show that people are not ignorant of the facts. They just don’t care. And that shocks me more than anything else. I’ve always been cynical but a part of me wanted to believe that man was inherently good. How wrong I was.

In these depressing morbid days, walking the hounds in these peaceful and beautiful surroundings has been the highlight of my days.

And again, my crowdfunding link in case anyone wants to contribute something – many thanks in advance!

The South African beach story

It’s summertime, it’s the festive season, it’s holidays, and the virus is peaking, again, with a new variant that infects faster. But wait, there’s more .. in the interests of public health, the government has closed the beaches in two of the most popular coastal holiday destinations.

The Eastern Cape. This province is one of South Africa’s most corrupt, incompetently run and poorest regions, but also one of the most beautiful. The long beaches are mostly unspoilt and fabulous with warm Indian Ocean water. But because a few pockets here and there are likely to be very crowded, the government decided to close them all rather than monitor the situation and enforce social distancing. This is because our Minister of Police is a really horrible and lazy bully who forms part of a faction that fights the president instead of working with him. We live in hope that he gets the boot one of these days. If it was up to him, the restrictions would be worse, with renewed prohibition and total lockdown..

Ironically, there are a few people who are able to walk on some of the forbidden beaches. The cattle herders of Pondoland. It’s not leisure, it’s work. Their job is to ensure that the wealth of the Pondo people, their cattle, is cared for and returned home every day after their traditional beach walk. Have a look at these stunning photos. Isn’t it ironic that the lowly cattle herder has a privilege not extended to the wealthy holiday-maker?

The Garden Route. Straddling the Eastern and Western Capes, this coastal region is also magnificent. So named because it is always green and lush, it’s one of our most popular holiday destinations. I like it very much and am grateful to have been able to take clients there on many occasions but I prefer going there outside of this time of year. It gets very crowded in December/January, unpleasantly so in my opinion, but that doesn’t deter the many who go there year after year, many of whom have a second home there. One can avoid crowds – there are several small towns and villages, there are forests, there are lakes and lagoons, and there are many beautiful beaches and the warm ocean offering a host of activities.

Oh, wait, not this year – this year all beaches along the Garden Route are closed. This is another of the crazy and lazy demands of the hated Minister, and it’s absurd. There are some very small beaches that might be difficult to control, but the most popular are wide and long, (and in some instances quite difficult to access, therefore never very crowded)!

Yes, there’s plenty of other things to do and places to go in that region but the warm water and the beach activities are a major attraction and for some people the only reason they go there, especially those from Johannesburg where there is no beach, or Cape Town where the ocean is too cold for swimming. The tourism industry has already taken such a knock that it was relying on this festive season to recoup some losses but unfortunately this stupid beach ban has caused many people to cancel their plans.

But all the beaches in Cape Town are open! There isn’t much logic in that because the Covid-19 hotspot is now extended to include Cape Town and surrounding areas. Logic has been absent from quite a few lockdown restrictions since March so this doesn’t come as a surprise.

All these photos are from the Garden Route – Robberg Peninsula, Victoria Bay, Wilderness, Nature’s Valley, and Plettenberg Bay. Only Victoria Bay is small and might not be easy to manage, all the others are either very wide or not very accessible, such as Robberg.

My ‘save my business’ fund has reached 50% of my goal and I am super grateful to see how generous and kind so many people have been. I still need to inch closer to the goal though, so in case you haven’t yet spent all your money on Christmas presents, here is the link. All I am asking of Dear Santa is to remove the spectre of losing all the efforts of my hard work 🙂

Overdosing in the time of Corona

Day 11 of South Africa’s lockdown and we have not reached the peak of this pandemic. People are speaking of halfway marks and planning post-lockdown activities but I suspect this is very premature.

Stats:  Officially, 1655 infections and 11 deaths, which proves my point that we are not peaking or even halfway there. These stats aren’t accurate at all but give a general idea.

Between my fears and concerns which are pretty much the same as everyone else, and my abnormal but usual high levels of anxiety, I am a wreck at the moment and have started taking a tranquiliser every morning instead of only when I feel stress coming on.

The title of this entry relates to yesterday’s kitchen activity. My son decided to bake a cake and make some bread known as ‘dinner rolls’, because we ran out of bread 2 days ago. We have no yeast so after searching all over the internet I settled on what appeared to be a simple recipe without yeast. I started helping him, i.e. supervising and annoying him, but that was clearly not a good idea so I went back to my laptop and Homeland.

He made a mistake with the sugar quantities in the cake icing and the result was a delicious but sickeningly sweet cake.  The rolls, which were made in a miniature muffin pan, had an error in the recipe so the salt was excessive.  They had the most wonderful texture and consistency and we’ve scoffed them all. And most of the cake.

Result? A bad night, a very very bad night. Now I know what it means to overdose on both sugar and salt in the same day. I have no one to blame but myself.

Tomorrow is grocery shopping. We hope to find some yeast but not holding our breath. Let the record show that we have lasted 2 weeks with the last grocery shop and there are 3 of us, and the freezer is very small and not empty yet. So I don’t understand people who feel the need to go out all the time. You can do without most of what you are buying between the big shopping trips. I bought milk and bread to freeze, we don’t eat meat every day, we don’t snack, and we plan meals according to what there is.

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The mini rolls. Will definitely be repeated but with less salt.

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This is what’s left of the cake. A simple sponge cake with a killer sweet never-to-be-repeated icing.

 

And in other news, this is what lockdown means for a normally vibrant city full of people who love the outdoors.

And last, my sweet little Vida who has been deprived of a walk for so long, trying to hide in my flowerbed.

vida

 

Birthday in the time of Corona

Day 8 of South African national Covid-19 lockdown wherein I am in two minds about it because it’s my birthday and it’s not exactly the sort of birthday one would ever choose, is it?

Stats: 1505 infected South Africans, 7 dead.  It still does not look too horrific for us but what is more frightening is that this country started off with a very strict lockdown, applauded globally, but now restrictions are being relaxed one by one as a result of pressure from a variety of people who might (not) live to regret it. When Covid-19 makes contact with our very high rate of HIV the shit will really hit the fan. Having said that, it is reassuring to know that our government is very forward-thinking and making all sorts of contingency plans.

So, the birthday … firstly here is the song I have been waiting for a long time to play on my birthday. It doesn’t sound quite as it did, to my ears, back when I first heard it. But then, those were very different days many submarines ago.

What exactly is a lockdown birthday? Well, calls from friends, many more than usual so that’s awesome.  Everyone is at home with more time than ever on their hands so I’m the happy recipient of many calls. My Facebook timeline is filled with the usual greetings  and I love the creative ones trying to avoid normal words like happy or good or festive or joyful because we all know it’s far from that.

Retailers have been fabulously generous with text message greetings urging me to use my points, fetch a free coffee, double up on my savings, and a host of other bullshit enticements to get me out of lockdown, against my wishes. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to go out and there are a few groceries I want but until I need something essential very very desperately, we are not budging.

My son has made a cake – a clafoutis– using an old family recipe. This cake comes from the south-west region of France, which is where my late father came from. We often make it as it is really simple and can be made with almost any fruit, including the humble apple. Today I’ll have it with apricot which gives it a nice tart taste.

Want the recipe?

4 eggs – 125g sugar – 1 pinch salt – 80g flour – 250ml milk – 60g butter, melted – 500g fruit (pitted if a stone fruit) laid flat in a flan dish.

Beat eggs, add salt, sugar, flour, butter and slowly add the milk. Pour mixture over fruit. Bake at 160 degrees for 45 minutes.

A unexpected birthday gift was the release, a whole day early, of the latest season of the best series I have ever watched – La casa de papel, aka Money Heist. I am forcing myself to wait until this evening to start binging.

Finally, a lockdown birthday is a NO RESTAURANT birthday. Not even your favourite, not even a budget meal, not at all. So, instead, some photos of past meals and favourite restaurant locations to make my mouth water and remind me that maybe, this, too, shall pass. (I believe those commas are ALL needed and correct).

22 Spek en bone23 Spek en Bone20180415_12582720180415_13121420180415_13464220180415_16260120190705_12424620190713_131850gnocchi spek n bonespek1 - Copy

A greatly redacted rant in the time of Corona

Day 7 of National Lockdown wherein this blogger has completely lost her shit and found it impossible to blog for several days.

Stats: 1462 infected and 5 deaths. These stats are still low. Either this is going too slowly or we will be spared what other countries have experienced. I fear the former which would mean the lockdown will be extended. However, the following graph shows our trajectory better than countries who did more tests than us at the same stage of the virus.

stats

Personally, it’s been a rough few days. Very rough. The point of reviving this blog was to entertain or give pause for thought, or provide me with release, pass the time and document this horror we are all living. It was not to offload personal drama so when the tears come and it all gets too much, I don’t write.

Having said that, I’ve just spent two days raging and crying, and I am worn out. I have a supply of tranqs and sleeping pills but if I abuse them I can’t function, so I limit myself and leave myself open to my emotions and reactions

Many people have shown compassion and reached out to me because they know that, over and above the financial impact of this virus, I live with a specific difficult and exceptional home circumstance. They can’t solve it, but they thoughtfully reach out and check-in and remind me that they care. These are people who know they are not alone in this; they care and remember to ask how I am coping given my shitty situation, people who are not totally self-absorbed. I love you all for that. I really do.

Sorry to sound so needy, but it’s a highly sensitive issue; compassion and caring cost nothing and go a long way with me. I react hugely to even the smallest gestures of kindness and thoughtfulness but, when certain people make it obvious that they don’t, I am crippled. Crippling me right now is not going to help anyone, not you, not me.

So, last night as the sleeping pills kicked in and I was worn out from crying, I decided que fucking sera sera – if I come out of this on the wrong side, so be it. As one of my friends told me – the now, the present, is all that matters.

So that’s where I am right now .. hovering between anger and hurt and rage and hysteria and some good loving moments. And having a little rant.

I started walking today. Down my narrow driveway, back up again, around the garden, down again. Repeat and repeat and repeat. 750 steps today. Fuck, it’s boring … tomorrow I may sneak out the gate all the way to the corner.

Some photos of happier times and places where I would LOVE to be right now.

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My son in a field of canola last spring.

clarence drive

The magnificent Clarence Drive along False Bay.

fynbos good hope

kirstenbosch

Kirstenbosch Botanical gardens

table mountain aloes

Aloes at the top of Table Mountain

 

Good cop, bad cop, in the time of Corona

Day 4 of South Africa’s lockdown in which people are already struggling with the isolation and the President had to comfort us whilst explaining what lockdown means and also issuing a stern warning to the police and military who are behaving badly.

Stats: 1326 infected people, 3 deaths – an increase of 2. One of them was a man who insisted on travelling from the city to his rural home village after testing positive. He subsequently got sicker and died. How many people he infected along the way, we will never know. And that’s why we need to stay the fuck at home, people!!

I had another crappy day because of various and very specific reasons. Sometimes I can’t quite decide if I want to get through this to face whatever economic hell comes after or just roll over now and let it take me and save me and others a lot of trouble.

One day I’m on a high and the next day I’m as low as can be – my days are good cop bad cop. Evenings are generally better, though, probably because I look forward to Netflix and hot chocolate in bed.

Pics show where I’d rather be right now – elephant watching through Addo or eating an ice cream on a beach.

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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