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.

You can’t make an omelette without breaking an egg, or more

I’m seriously considering not eating food connected to living creatures. I’m not sure I want to go the whole hog vegan (see what I did there?) but vegetarian very very possibly. I’m not into all those stupid in-between words that describe someone who wants to eat what they want when they want but still use a poncy label to make themselves feel and seem better about being fickle.

My problem is I really enjoy certain animal dishes. Take lamb – there is nothing in the world quite as mouth-wateringly delicious as Karoo lamb. Those little wooly creatures are fed on special yummy natural vegetation that is found nowhere else on earth but in this arid beautiful region. There is even an official certification for Karoo lamb. A juicy cutlet with just the right amount of fat, seasoned and cooked perfectly on a wood fire, the way South Africans do so well .. very hard to resist! And a rich lamb stew or curry is a heavenly, albeit very privileged, way to get through a cold winter’s night.

What about chicken? Okay, that I can live without, quite easily in fact. I know I could, especially great big chunks of dry breast on the bone, or drumsticks that always have an undercooked bit in the centre and that yucky long piece of cartilage. Stirfried chicken fillets or grilled wings nicely marinated, ok, ok, I will eat with pleasure, but the rest you can keep. Steak and any other beef products I can also live without, in fact I can’t even remember when I last ate beef. I’m partial to pork medallions done in a creamy mushroom sauce but I guess I could live without them if I had to.

But eggs? What’s a nicoise or tuna salad without a hard-boiled egg? What’s a breakfast fry-up without two eggs sunnyside up, slightly runny and very yellow? A quick snack of scrambled eggs with chopped chives on a slice of perfectly toasted bread? And a fluffy omelette cooked just right with a smidgen of grated strong cheese and a few sautéed mushrooms? How can I be expected to go without this?

I once visited the Mont Saint Michel in Normandy with my son and cousin. They urged me to climb to the top which was sheer torture; I bought a sily touristy memento, and down we came again. My cousin suggested we have a very special omelette. I was, as always in France, happy to go along with anything food related. In a narrow walkway into the restaurant one walks past a large window behind which chefs are seen whisking eggs with energetic vigour in very large mixing bowls. They know when they’re being watched so they speed it up even more.

A waiter brought the menu which my cousin instantly whisked away from me. Instead, she gave me a few options of what sort of omelette we could have. Once we had chosen I stole the menu back and looked at the prices. OH MY GOD. Seriously, I almost fainted. The price of one omelette was the equivalent of a four-course meal for four people. My cousin grabbed the menu back and told me to chill out, this was her treat and that is that.

Oh boy, never in my life have I eaten an omelette so light and fluffy. I vaguely remember the filling, ham and cheese I think, but the memory of that meal will never fade. The world’s most expensive but most delicious omelette. Light, fluffy, and some secret ingredient that I will never know. Heaven.

Anyhow, despite ongoing efforts to think and talk about doing away with animal food, I finally made the perfect omelette this week. I chose a very old but solid pan. My stovetop plates are small so my regular frying pan doesn’t work for something that requires even cooking. This old woman and her old pan made the best omelette – two days in a row. Someone suggested I whisk the egg whites seperately so I tried that this morning and I think I overdid it because it was excessively fluffy; still delicious though and I’m eminently proud of myself. Small pleasures. To be repeated.

Incidentally, I am thoroughly bored shitless with this pandemic though. I love food and I love eating but I want something else to do and think about and write about. (Stunning looking dessert coming out of the oven in a few minutes – tomorrow’s blog, maybe, depends on outcome).

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.

Canibalism, corona style

I haven’t blogged in weeks – it’s been a tough time but I am in need of a rant, so please bear with me.

We live in a greedy world where, for some people, money equals respect. If you have lots of it you can command respect, or something akin to respect, because of the power it buys. You can ruin someone’s life if you have money and they don’t. You can get out of jail free if you can afford a better lawyer than your opponent.

I’ve always been anti-consumerism, especially conspicuous consumerism, but with my complete loss of income this past year as a result of the end of tourism, I am more than ever aware of the power of money and the people who wield it. Of course, it’s a 2-way thing – the people who have lost respect for me a a result of my financial devastation are people for whom I have no respect either, regardless of their bank account. Luckily, this applies to only a few people I know and most of my friends and acquaintances are decent human beings who treat me the same, money or no money. They see me, not my stuff.

A year ago the world was starting to lockdown against an unknown plague. We had no idea it would be this bad or last this long, but a conversation I had with some people on Facebook last year led us to speculate what and how the world’s communities would manage if the economy was completely destroyed. If the majority of people found themselves with no income and no way to feed themselves. We envisaged dystopian scenarios of foraging and trading. And sharing. Sharing – what a notion. Someone said the virus might be the saving grace blessing in disguise that humanity needs to show us a way more natural, more caring, more humane.

Ha! Not a fuck, hey? I read a lot of news and online stories of Covid19 and its effects around the world and I have not come across a single report about any positive changes in humanity as a result. Lots and lots of ugliness, though. Politicians downplaying the problem, others stealing relief funds, and some just hunkering down until it blows over. Average citizens refusing to wear masks, refusing to stay home, refusing to slow down social lives, claiming they have nothing to share or give the poor. I’ve had arguments with people who can’t understand why there are more beggars around.

I live in a country of enormous poverty and an unemployment rate of around 40% (give or take inaccuracies and unofficial figures); 60% of the youth between 18 and 35 are unemployed and a huge number of those will never ever get a job! We are, however, still not the poorest in Africa and in fact we have wealth but it is very unevenly distributed. Last year people formed community based organisation to feed the poor but after taking off rather well, many of them are now struggling because even the donors are feeling the pinch – it is never ever the very rich who donate, it’s always those who don’t have much themselves. The government’s special temporary social grant for Covid relief has been far too little ($23/month!!! ) and so poorly managed that many did not even receive it, despite being approved to receive it.

Some have profited enormously of course – especially industries to do with e-commerce, also retailers of food and those selling anything connected to gardening and DIY. Food delivery services, groceries and take-out, are groaning with success – certain corners of cities are impassable due to the delivery scooters and their drivers taking up all the space (and not wearing masks or social distancing at all). Others have not lost their jobs, have barely felt the effects and in fact saved a lot by having activities curtailed. And all that lovely lucre is staying at the top of the pyramid. The beggars and homeless are on the increase.

Did we learn to be nicer to each other, as a whole? Not at all. We’re like a bunch of stranded shipwrecked survivors who slowly start to turn on each other and watch to see who will die first so the rest can eat.

And now we want to export those sentiments to Mars!!

This miserably depressing blog post improved with photos of the dogs – most loyal and loving and demanding of all beings! And half a selfie.

Morsels of Gratitude, part 2

It’s not easy!!

Part of this gratitude lark is to stay positive and avoid anything that will bring me down. I was doing well until I realised that my visit to the specialist last week cost R2000. Yes, my medical aid will pay for it but it’s a third of the total annual fund supposed to cover all doctor visits, medication, any blood test or x-ray, spectacles, and so-called dental basics. There is NO justification for such a high fee for a 20 minute consultation. The special machine used to measure my lung capacity was a once-off expense, years ago by the looks of it, and nothing else was used. We are ripped off by fees like this. The alternative is to go to a public hospital but there are problems with this. One is the long queues, like all day sometimes, second is the possibility of catching the virus, and thirdly, although this country has excellent medical people and training, the system itself is a disaster.

What am I grateful for today?

As I type this, my son is washing my car. This may sound like no big deal but it’s actually a minibus (see at the end of this post) and it’s an exhausting job to wash it, so I’m really grateful that he’s doing it.

Grateful for living close to nature and open spaces. I’ve heard many people from Europe remark on how wonderful it is that this city and surrounds still has so much open space, so much nature. This is something many people take for granted or simply don’t care for.

I couldn’t live in a big city. I couldn’t live far from open space, water, mountains. I’m so grateful that I don’t have to go too far to walk amongst vegetation that is unique in the world – the wonderful fynbos of the Western Cape; or along a stream in the green belt nestled in the middle of a residential suburb; or the wide open white sandy beaches (when permitted, not these days of lockdown limits), and of course the mountains that cover almost all of the Cape peninsula. Further afield, the wide open expanse of the Karoo and the Northern Cape are sublime and I miss them enormously, having not been to either of those regions ages due to the virus limitations.

Pics below were taken this morning at the Tokai Plantation. It’s half plantation and half fynbos garden. The fynbos section has been reborn by cutting down a large portion of the pine plantation and allowing the natural vegetation to grow back. In cooler weather the open area is wonderful to walk in but the plantation is ideal for hot summer days because the trees provide much-needed shade.

I mentioned my minibus. Below is the link to a crowdfunding campaign I’ve set up to help me pay the bank for this minibus so that when tourism picks up again I have my vehicle all paid up. Any contribution will be welcome and very much appreciated!

Today, a new era for the US

I follow politics but avoid it on this blog, except for an occasional mention or barb aimed at our own corrupt dolts, but today it’s worth acknowledging a most important event taking place: The US Presidential Inauguration (of someone who can only be better than the previous incumbent, even if he isn’t perfect and is so wrinkly he might pop his clogs before Easter).

Goodbye Donny, Hullo Joe (and Kamala – you go, girl!).

As many people, I have found the past four years to be a frightening entertainment show never likely to be repeated. I hate horror movies but this was fascinating. Never in my life did I expect a global pandemic such as Covid, but neither did I imagine that the most powerful and influential nation on earth would be led by a man as blatantly odious and dangerous as the Don. A man who attempted a coup d’état because he didn’t get as many votes as he wanted. A man who, to the very last day, refused to even utter the name of the man who has been legally elected to take his place.

Mind-boggling. And even more puzzling is how so many South Africans of every variety actually supported him. We do have a lot of racists in this country and Trump did feed in to all their prejudices, but to the extent of supporting a man who actually looks down on them, is beyond stupidity. Something else that always puzzles me is when I see how many people don’t realise that what happens in the US has a direct effect on most countries, and definitely on us in South Africa.

If the US election and the storming of the Capitol had taken place on African soil we would be pilloried for being savages, accused of barbarous ungovernable behaviour, and so on and so on as we’ve seen for centuries. Of course Africa has dodge elections – Uganda is a case in point this very week – but we don’t invade other countries under the guise of enforcing democracy or human rights.

I’m fortunate that one of my lockdown inmates is a passionate follower of US politics and has patiently explained the machinations of every absurd little detail of how a federal nation is run, the difference between the Senate and the House, the fact that Washington DC isn’t even a state but wants to be one (and that’s despite a state to the north-west called Washington State), and of course how the elections work, which to my mind is about 300 years retarded and needs to get with a real democratic programme asap.

To my American readers: good luck and don’t do it again!

We’ll keep out eyes glued to the news later while we enjoy a typical South Africa braai (bbq) at around the time of the Inauguration – I hope it all goes smoothly and safely. As I write this, I have just received a breaking news alert that the orange menace and his tart have left the WH – bring in the fumigators!

LOCKDOWN CONTINUED!

Today marks 300 days since lockdown was announced in South Africa. We’ve gone from a very severe level 5 to a mild, almost nothing level 1, and now back to level 3 with much confusion, no beaches, no alcohol (so no champagne for the Inauguration!), and no school next week – I have sympathy for all my friends who have school-going children and who think they can’t cope with another home-school lesson!

Everyone I know has buried a loved one, everyone has a friend who either got Covid19 mildly or severely. The stats are easing, slightly, but the mortality rate is still very high and hospitals are struggling. From everything I have heard it seems obvious that healthcare workers need to be better equipped to deal with trauma, need more support from their industries, need better pay, and just more all-round genuine respect and working conditions. However, they also need an industry that screens trainees better – the level of theft and wilful neglect that takes place in hospitals is unacceptable. A nurse with 35 years experience has told me that it is directly proportionate to education – the better educated a nurse is, the more honest he/she will be in terms of ethics in the ward. Appalling but surely not difficult to address?

This post calls for a soothing photo – here is one of the most beautiful gardens high up in the mountains in Stellenbosch. I will write about it in another post.

Time is running out on my crowdfunding campaign – please read about it below. Any contribution will be most welcome and appreciated!

A roll of fat and a lot of rage

That pretty much suns up the past 10 months. When I’m not cooking or eating or planning either, I am raging.

Rage at the Chinese for lying and thereby not containing the virus. And the next one will be worse.

Rage at the US president for failing his own people and the rest of the world. If not for him, that mighty nation could’ve led the response.

Rage at a world that was already too unequal and is now so much worse. No amount of Aid or government subsidies will fix this for a very long time.

Rage at people who ignored safety because they just don’t give a fuck. Really, that’s all it comes down to, they don’t care at all. Fighting regulations, no matter how stupid some are, does nothing but drag it all out.

Rage at willful ignorance that was always there but now has now been so blatantly exposed. Conspiracy theorists lead the pack with all their prejudiced followers.

Rage at people being forced to risk their lives for a minuscule social grant that is roughly equivalent to the middle-class price of a pizza and a salad. And yet, some still manage to feed themselves for a month with it, assuming they get their hands on it.

Rage at the audacity of our government for ignoring requests to adequately communicate with the people throughout the crisis. So much trust is lost now and the vaccine roll-out is as clear as mud.

Rage at the profiteering and corruption perpetrated throughout the world, because suddenly so much money was made available. This is not unique to one country.

Rage at those who are blind to all of the above.

Last week was hard. A sick friend trying to manage Covid at home was suddenly out of comms and it turned out he was rushed to hospital and was fighting for his life; two other friends survived but will struggle for a while; another one has had the virus since March – only now is Long Covid even a thing. Another friend tells me she lost five people in one day.

I know people who are reckless, uninformed, selfish, and who will not get sick or not very sick. Others, careful, fearful, knowledgeable, caring only for others, land up in hospital. As I type this someone I know, only through FB but whom i have grown to be very fond of, is in hospital struggling to breathe. He’s been so careful, so very very careful all these months, but contracted the virus at work because someone was not careful.

So many still don’t understand they could be asymptomatic, because we have no idea how many such people there are and it’s precisely why we should all be staying the fuck at home unless absolutely necessary.

I am starting to feel the weight of it all. The long-term effects on all of us will be studied and reported on for decades, and longer.

No one ever said the world was fair and I doubt very much that the meek will inherit a thing. The arseholes will take it all.

Sighhh … depressing post illustrated with a photo of sunset restio, taken several years ago on the edge of the Tanqua Karoo.

And …. a link to my crowdfunding platform wherein I have tried to raise enough funds to save my tourism minibus. Please have a look and see if you can help – many thanks!

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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