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.

Ardene Gardens, Claremont

At long last, a walk in the park!

I’ve been going a bit mad with this latest lockdown and the dogs haven’t had a proper run in ages. Most of our parks are either closed or dogs are not allowed or you need special dog permits, and all beaches in this region are off-limits. The mutts have been walked by my friend around the neighbourhood but they prefer running free, sniffing stuff, rolling in old bird poop, and chasing squirrels.

I heard Ardene Gardens were open so I met my son there for a walk. I hadn’t been there for many years which is a pity because it’s gorgeous.

Smack back in the middle of what is now suburbia and a busy commercial area, this large piece of land was bought for the princely sum of £740 (under a thousand dollars!) in 1845 by one Ralph Henry Ardene because he wanted to create a garden “with trees and plants from as many parts of the world as I can.” He did just that, asking everyone who came to the Cape to bring him seeds and plants. His son continued the tradition, travelling the world in search of plants.

A Norfolk Island Pine was brought from Australia and for a long time was the focal point of the gardens. It is said that every Norfolk Island pine in Cape Town is a descendant of this tree. This particular one died early last century, not long after Ardene junior himself, and at about the same time as the dwindling of the family fortune. The gardens were at risk of being lost, i.e. divided and developed, as this had become a thriving sought-after part of the Cape peninsula. Fortunately the City Council was urged to buy the land and now it’s a very popular place for walks, picnics, and wedding photographs. We saw large bits of shiny confetti scattered – this should not be permitted as it isn’t biodegradable.

The most awesome tree, but truly awesome in the real meaning of the word, is a Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla). This ancient and enormous specimen is claimed, in a book I have, to be one of the largest trees in Africa. I doubt that very much because there are baobabs that are much larger by far. What I suspect is meant is that it’s the largest cultivated exotic tree. Be that as it may, it is spectacular! The roots are spread out for more than 10 metres around the tree, with deep enough gaps between them to plant other things, and of course it’s very photogenic!

There is a natural spring, which apparently connects to the nearby Black River, and around which have been created several lovely ponds with ferns and other lush plants. The surface of the ponds is covered in scum and we saw only two ducks but no fish. The various little bridges across the ponds reminded me of Monet’s Garden at Giverny and there are even a few water lilies.

The gardens became neglected in the late 1980’s. In 2004, the Friends of the Arderne Gardens (FOTAG) was established as a public benefit organisation with the objective of working with the City of Cape Town to protect, preserve and promote the garden. The Liesbeek River Garden is another perfect example of citizens getting involved and filling in the gap when the City can’t do everything.

Although officially open during the current lockdown restrictions (with limits on numbers and no picnicking allowed) there was a ‘Closed’ sign at the entrance. This was strange because two employees sitting just inside the gate were quite happy to open up and let us in, saying that walking is permitted. Why the closed sign, I don’t know and didn’t ask. We saw only about 5 other people throughout our walk which was lovely.

Here is a full list of trees and a map here.

I was very conscious throughout our walk that the large hospital just over the road is buckling under the strain of Covid and here we were strolling in the park on a summer’s day as if nothing untoward was happening in the world around us.

My tourism business is in big trouble so I have created a crowdfunding campaign to help me continue to pay for my touring minibus. Here is the link below. Many thanks for any assistance and contribution, it is all much appreciated.

Vida – my dog, all precious dogs

Thousands of years ago man domesticated a wolf (probably for hunting purposes). Not happy with that genetic messing about (yes, your dog is a GMO!), a few hundred years ago man created what we know as ‘breeds’. I won’t go into the horror of the discarded creatures during the build up to breeds nor the bullshit associated with snobby breed pretentiousness because most animal lovers know all this. But dogs … why are they man’s best friend? How did they get to be so loyal and so favoured by humans who, let’s face it, are actually quite selfishly fussy and not generally inclined to appreciate the simple things in life?

Damned if I know, I’m not a shrink. All I know is that every day I have with my little mutt is a better day than without her.

Nine years ago I went through a patch of being burgled several times at the same time as personal sadness. Several people said “Get a dog, get a dog’. In South Africa many people treat dogs as security measures. I wasn’t really keen to do that because my property is small and I had a full-time job so no time to house-train a new dog. Then things changed and I was working from home a lot so I started thinking of maybe getting a dog. It had to be a puppy; I wanted that bond from almost-birth.

Many stray pregnant bitches give birth in dodgy places. The lucky ones are rescued and for a brief time there are puppies available at the SPCA. (I support the SPCA whenever I can with donations and during the recent lockdown I donated to their charity shop the results of a massive decluttering of my home – from clothes to rugs to suitcases and even my wedding dress!)

A visit to my local SPCA and this little furry ball jumped into my arms and the next thing I was being assessed as a potential dog owner. And then the furry ball was mine. My responsibility, my puddle of pee, my cuddly little 12 week old puppy with no name. I named her Vida at the suggestion of a friend who said it was a no-brainer because my life was a bit shitty at the time and she was going to bring me .. life.

No, you will not be allowed on the bed. That lasted one night, one whole night. And I don’t care. My bed is her bed, my couch is her couch, my car is her car. Ok, that last one took a while to deal with and we won’t go into too much detail. Suffice to say she now knows the car leads to fun places and is worth the trip. We don’t have nice walking places in my immediate suburb but within a short driving distance are some lovely green patches of nature and mountains and beaches so we appreciate all of them.

I am besotted with her so maybe I do understand why so many people feel that way about their dogs. They are unconditionally the best creatures to have around. All they want is food and warmth. They do not judge. They do not betray. They do not argue. They are not bigots. They don’t care if your house is fancy or trendy or not. They don’t care how much money you have or if your hair needs a cut. They are better than humans, I prefer them to humans.

Sadly, they don’t live very long so we have short time to love and appreciate, there is no time for bullshit. They seem to know this so they make the most of it and enjoy the simple things like walks and forests and beaches and catching balls and fetching sticks. And treats and limitless cuddles and tummy rubs.

I have thousands of photos of Vida so bear with me, here are a few. The black and white dog is Havana; she is my son’s dog and lives mostly with me at the moment. She’s about the same age and is a recent immigrant from France, where she was born into, and rescued from, a gypsy family. My son likes to brag that she is well-travelled because she’s been all over France and Spain. He also brags that she can fetch sticks – Vida does not bother with such activities because if you want the stick you can fetch it yourself. Vida claims she is not a trick pony and has more important things to do. Havana sheds hair everywhere and barks out of sheer excitement right next to your ear. But we still love her.

Ending off as usual with a link to my crowdfunding campaign to save my tourism business. Thanks for the contributions, they are welcome and you are wonderful! Stay safe and wear your mask.

NB: Ads on this free blog site are not of my choosing and I derive no benefit from them. I might sign up for paid advertising if I can be assured that the ads will be tasteful but I am not sure if I can have any control nor how it works – if anyone has advice, please share it.

July 2020, and the plague marches on

The reason I am writing about each month is that I finally downloaded all my phone photos to my laptop. It’s not a pretty picture. There were almost 4000 of them since the end of March alone, about half being dogs and food. Dogs in the same position either on indoor couch, outdoor couch, or bed. Food being home-cooked, seldom photogenic, and becoming more and more boring every day.

South Africa finally reached the ‘peak’ of Covid-19. Hospitals were stretched to their limits and the mortality rates shot up. Not as high as Europe or the US because we planned well and we have a young population, but it was frightening. One of my lockdown inmates lost his father and had to fly to Johannesburg for a small family cremation and returned home the same day. The planning of the timing, obtaining a special police travel permit, and how to work around curfew – it was all a bit much for something as simple as a 2 hour flight, and he had to do all that whilst grieving at his sudden loss. We waited for 10 days to see if he had picked up something nasty at the airport but nothing came. Not a good 10 days.

And winter … oh, yes, another month of raging Cape winter storms. One day it’s warm and clear and sitting outdoors is a no-brainer, the next day trees are falling on roofs or cars, or blocking major roads. My ceiling survived the second bad storm but not so the wall separating me and my neighbours. Well, luckily not the entire wall, just the top few rows of a small section but it wasn’t amusing at all. Apparently the entire wall will come tumbling down one of these days but for now we’re ignoring it and hoping for the best.

Officially, spring is from September but our vegetation doesn’t follow the calendar so July heralds the start of the flower season. The sight of flowers and new growth made me think I should grow vegetables. A bit late, I know, but hope springs eternal and all that so I started with tomatoes – using seeds from store-bought tomatoes, large ones and the medium sized Rosa. I thought pots would be better than open ground because of the dogs. Bad idea, my pots were too small. I eventually transplanted them into the ground, protected with barriers from dogs, and am now, in December about to harvest a decent and gradual crop. More pics to come.

A few July pics, followed by the usual link to my crowdfunding campaign which is going rather well but needs constant boosting if I am to achieve my final goal. You are thanked in advance for any contribution, no matter how small.

Pano on a crisp wintr’s day – Constantiaberg mountains with Tokai garden in front.

My one and only aloe – watch how gradually the flowers drop. They are sucked empty by birds in the space of 2 weeks. The birds are impossible to photogragh – they’r tiny and fast, but oh so beautiful, mostly double-collared sunbirds and starlings.

This is what happens when you try to dry tomato seeds without first removing them from bits of tomato. The compost heap loved this!

Two memories – the precious and well-travelled Art Deco Limoges cups my mother gave me. The fluff of my wedding dress which I finally gave away this year when doing a big declutter of clothes and other things.

Remembering June Lockdown

What can I say about June in the time of Corona? By this time we were starting to lose our sense of humour, seriously. The virus was raging, numbers rising. It was cold and wet, and booze was suddenly unavailable again. We were warned the virus would get worse before it got better and the few bookings I was still holding for September and October were cancelled. I started wondering if I would have any work at all for the rest of the year.

I seldom ventured out; saw a friend once – for a walk outdoors, keeping masks on – and became very tired of home cooking. I was grateful to not live alone. My companions and I started getting on each others’ nerves but the good times were worth the bad ones. Caring friends continued reaching out with phone calls and check-ins. I did the same to others that I knew would be anxious, alone, stressed. We’d have long conversations, boost each other, encourage each other, and offer advice and help.

It takes a plague to see who your true friends are and I can testify to that.

After years of drought, this winter decided to make up for lost time. In this region we have wet winters, as opposed to the savanna up north where they enjoy wet summers. Cape Town is lovely but sometimes disgusting winter weather. It’s really awful – cold and wet, the rain falls sideways because of the wind, and we have storms coming in from the ocean that have turned the coastlines into a graveyard of ships.

So, one night, in the first of two very bad storms, my bedroom ceiling started collapsing. If it had been any other room I might have been tempted to just ignore it and continue spending most of my days in bed with Netflix and depression. But the bedroom, my sanctuary, above my bed? Had to be fixed. Luckily, my 2 lockdown inmates are very tall men who did an amazing repair job. They did it all despite not having the right tools and by improvising with various items such as a tripod, a strip of wooden fencing, various other bits and bobs, and an amazing type of rude glue, photographed below.

And walks .. oh my god, finally, some proper walks with the dogs. What an absolute joy it was to get out and walk in nature again, to see the dogs run free. Things like that we take for granted until we don’t have them.

Last thing .. ending off with yet another link to my crowdfunding page wherein I try to save my business. Any assistance will be greatly appreciated.

Disclaimer: I have no control over any advertising on these blog entries and derive no benefit from them.

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.

Another day in the time of Corona

Day 3 of National Covid-19 Lockdown in South Africa, wherein the country is globally praised for setting strict regulations. Also day eleventy of mass racism on the part of middle class twats who can’t understand that ‘stay at home’ isn’t easy for people who live 6 to a one-room shack.

People in nice homes should go and spend a few hours locked in one room with all the windows closed and the heat turned up to full. While you’re in there, you can spend the time formulating a convincing argument for the poor to do the same for 21 days, or more.

Stats: – I had it wrong the last time, there was ONE death, not two, and that hasn’t changed yet. (The second death presented exactly the same conditions as Covid-19 but did not test positive. She was only 28).  Infected cases : 1187 (this reflects only corroborated test results).  I get my verified information from the Facebook page of the Dept. of Health. or the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.  Their stats are updated every evening around 21:00.

At this stage the stats don’t mean much but at some point they will be very meaningful. Either they will shoot up drastically in which case we get very scared or they don’t which will mean we have done the right thing by locking down.

While everyone complains of frustration and boredom after only three days of lockdown it’s hit me that I’ve been self-isolating for much longer than that. It’s getting to me big time and I wish I had taken the trouble to go for long solo walks or drives or something during those two weeks, while I could have done so in safety.

Yesterday I woke up with a variety of symptoms. While my friend was googling them to reassure me that they fitted my sinus problems and not Covid-19, I broke down and realised that, despite massive suicidal fantasies, I’m not sure I want to die alone in an ICU ward. Thelma and Louise style over a cliff, maybe. A final peaceful sleep somewhere meaningful after a good bottle of wine, definitely. But alone in a hospital bed with not even a busy nurse to hold my hand? Not very appealing.

So those feelings formed my entire day which I spent mostly in bed watching the last few episodes of my current series – Gold Digger, BBC, very good – and I made no attempt to blog. By the end of the day my symptoms had cleared up but I felt shell-shocked, almost as if I was drugged. I managed to cook supper, though – seems to be the most productive thing I do these days.

Speaking of drugs, I would not get through this if not for my supply of sleeping pills because, even with that, I am not sleeping well. The end of the month is looming with its debit orders and wolfish creditors. Oh, what a time to be (still) alive.

And in other news, the army is out in full force clearing the streets of disobedient citizens. The soldiers know they can’t throw everyone in jail so offenders are given a choice: a cell or pushups in the street. Most are choosing pushups. Don’t tell the jogging deprived middle-class.

Today was a better day than yesterday, although I’m not quite sure what that means anymore.

Here are a few photos of the dogs of this household. Black one is Vida, my dog, and the other is Havana, my son’s dog. We’re super grateful to have them around and, as most cats and dogs throughout the world, they’re chuffed to bits that we’re in lockdown.




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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