My love affair with Eugene

I can’t believe I haven’t banged on about this before – perhaps because it has nothing to do with Cape Town, yet. Yesterday, as I was scrolling through the news of drama coming out of the US, Spotify decided to cheer me up by enticing me to listen to all the works of my most favourite ever, bestest ever, musical group. Pink Martini. ALL their works at once? ALL of it on shuffle? !!!!

This is the story of one of my oldest loves and certainly one of the most faithful, albeit one-sided, relationships I’ve ever conducted. It started years ago, in the 90s, on the last night of a holiday in France, at my cousin Xavier’s Paris flat. He played a wonderful CD and when he saw how much I liked it he slipped it into my luggage for me to find when I returned home. It was called Sympathique and was the best surprise ever!

That CD led me to haunt music shops for more, and my love for Pink Martini grew and grew; it has never faded, unlike some lovers who almost always eventually disappoint.

I tried to see them perform live – not an easy feat as they don’t perform just anywhere. I missed a chance to see them in Nice on another trip to France. I could’ve made a stopover there but I didn’t – big mistake. Then again in Fort Worth in the early 2000s. I was terribly excited to see they were performing there a few days prior to a planned business visit to Dallas, but my boss turned down my request to go early on my own time and buck. It seemed it was never to be. They are unlikely to come to South Africa anytime soon, despite my Twitter entreaties. Yes, I beg them on Twitter, I have no shame. They’re so kind and polite, they even respond.

Imagine them performing at Kirstenbosch for a New Year’s Eve without the virus fear? I can swoon just thinking of that!

There are not enough words, and I am not sufficiently eloquent, to express how much I love this ensemble of musicians and their work. Their music lifts and transports me, it makes me dance, it makes me sing, it makes me look a complete fool in the traffic, it helped me through many a dark moment, especially lockdown. That’s what music is supposed to do, right? They even make German sound romantic and melodic for goodness sakes! And how about Puff the Magic Dragon sung in Japanese?

One of my favourite numbers is Hey Eugene. It’s probably quite pedestrian to select this one because many of their other songs are far more complex, but there it is, that’s my fave. It’s my favourite post-party song. Once, years ago, I returned from a party late one night, quite the worst for wear, and played Eugene on my old stereo, over and over and over, very loudly. The next morning there was an anonymous note in my letter box from a neighbour asking me to please not play Eugene repeatedly. No, they didn’t tell me to not play loud music, just not Eugene on repeat. I never did find out who wrote the note. It was a funky suburb called Observatory, in Cape Town, you get away with a lot of stuff there.

What makes them so special, aside from their massive talent, is they cross over various genres – classical, pop, jazz, and so on, from all corners of the world in all languages. The three ‘lead’ performers, as it were, are Thomas Lauderdale on piano – if you haven’t seen him in action, you’re in for a treat! And the two lead vocalists are China Forbes and Storm Large. China has the voice of an angel, she could sing me to death and I would die happy. Melodies from every corner of the world … rare and raw talent. I don’t know how they are not known by every single person on earth. Forsooth, no one I’ve ever introduced them to has given me anything but positive feedback. I am most definitely unreservedly their number one fan on the entire African continent.

One of the best gifts I ever received was when I asked a friend coming from France to bring me their latest CD and he did better than that and brought a CD of one of their performances .. (You Tube wasn’t as big as it is now). It’s a very precious possession that I still play regularly.

I even think of them when I tend to my lockdown tomato plantation – because there’s even a song for that.

I’m sorry I didn’t realise they were doing a 31 Dec concert, I would have changed my mind about going to bed hours before midnight!

Give them a listen, add them to your Spotify, you won’t regret it and in fact you’ll thank me, and you, too, can Sway the lockdown blues away in your living room.

How I wish I could see them perform live! How do I put this? Don’t bother to fly me to the moon, just fly me to a Pink Martini concert!

Photos of Kirstenbosch concert lawn, pre-Covid, courtesy of Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, SANBI, and Come-to-Cape-Town. Sadly, the annual Summer Concerts were cancelled this summer because of Covid-19 but it is one of Cape Town’s most spectacular annual events. A different genre of music every Sunday, on the lawns of South Africa’s most beautiful botanical garden. There are special Christmas and New Year’s Eve performances – I will continue to fantisise about Pink Martini on New Year’s Eve as long as I draw breath. (Pic of album cover from Wikipedia).

Covid is destroying so many businesses. Tourism is probably the worst hit and small businesses like mine are struggling to win the fight with banks and their greedy ways. So here is the link to my crowdfunding campaign in the hope that public assistance and a few dollars here and there will help me to hang on to my touring minibus until such time as tourism is revived. Much love and thank in anticipation of contributions.

Hail to the shop assistants!

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic healthcare workers have been lauded, for doing their job. Okay so they didn’t sign up for a pandemic but they did sign up for sickness and risk, and they are trained professionals. I applaud them for the continued efforts, for not giving up, for going back into the field even when exhausted or after recovering from the virus themselves.

But supermarket staff? They didn’t sign up for anything dangerous. In South Africa they are not even paid a living wage. One supermarket chain pays its workers so badly it one 290 years to earn what her boss was paid in a month.

With the exception of some high-end stores, most shop assistants in this country are surly, rude, and not ever likely to do anything for you beyond roughly swiping your groceries along the scanner. Who can blame them for not being thrilled with their lot in life? What do they actually have to be happy about? Nothing. They work very long hours, earn peanuts, receive very little in the way of benefits, and most of them live so far from their place of work that they can easily spend 2 hours in disgusting dangerous public transport to reach their work. And when they get home there is no help for them to guide kids with homework, to prepare supper, to do the laundry, and in many instances to endure domestic violence.

They’ve worked throughout the pandemic so that we could have food and other consumables. Lucky for us, the people who work in the retail stores have continued to be there. I’m not referring to the owners of the stores, those who take the profit, but the poor sods who ring up your stuff and get nothing extra for working in a pandemic, except droplets of virus from the customers.

No-one clapped for them. No one arranged videos and public outpourings of gratitude.

How else would we have eaten for 10 months? Who stacked the shelves full of toilet paper that we suddenly needed in massive quantities? Who loaded and unloaded the delivery trucks and shelves and warehouses? Millions and millions of retail workers, that’s who!

Thank you to anyone who works in retail, especially those who come into contact with the public and their droplets and bad attitude. And a special thank you to those who were not always empowered by their companies to enforce the safety protocols to safeguard them.

Thank you to all supermarket staff, and especially my local surly ladies at Checkers!

Only one photo today. The lovely Kirstenbosch Botanical gardens with agapanthus in the foreground.

Ending off as usual, with a link to my crowdfunding campaign. Thanks in advance for any contributions.

September – spring, escapism and even clients

I still can’t get over how long I lasted without going completely nuts at home. With a few brief exceptions, it was only in September that I had what one could call multi-escapisms.

First was a trip to the West Coast National Park (yes, I was there twice this year, despite lockdown!) to see the flowers with clients. I advertised on Facebook and after much back and forth of coordinating people and the ideal weather, I had a small group confirmed for a day tour. They were all locals who love nature and wanted to treat themselves to an outing, and not have to drive – my exact target market! The day met all their expectations and I was thrilled to be there and to mix with new people. I even got an amazing Trip Advisor review from one of them, Tim, who is also a tour guide – quite a feat for lockdown!

I also fulfilled a wish – I held a very small baby! It had occurred to me at the start of lockdown, one of those sudden thoughts that come out of nowhere, that I might never again hold a baby. The thought saddened me enormously and I admit to weeping at the thought. Then I received a lunch invitation from a tour operator with whom I work often (under normal times) and his wife had just given birth! I couldn’t get there fast enough, although I had to wait until the restrictions permitted it. Luckily, the new mum allowed me all the holding and cuddling I wanted and a good day was had by all.

My friend Frank knew I was down in the dumps so he urged me out of the house for a walk on the renowned Rondebosch Common. This deceptive looking piece of land, in the upmarket and very historic suburb of Rondebosch, is an institution in Cape Town. Known simply as The Common to many, this open ground of 40 hectares is a National Monument and used to be a military camp – from the days of the Dutch defending the Cap against the British until the Second World War.

Now it’s an important conservation area for some critically endangered species of Cape fynbos and renosterveld, which occur nowhere else on earth. Driving past it, all one observes is an open piece of land with a few shrubby parts and some large pines at one end. But, park your car, take a walk and keep your eyes to the ground and you’ll see a myriad plant species, over 100 species of birds, as well as small mammals, reptiles and frogs. It’s also an important wetland so it’s very soggy in parts which gave me an opportunity to wear my wonderful gumboots – they don’t get out much these days.

September was also the month for my first post-Covid visit to Kirstenbosch – not for nothing is this known as one of the world’s most beautiful Botanical Gardens. They were closed for several months but in September re-opened and my friend Sheila and I wasted little time going there for a few hours. I was in a bad head-space that day so it was just what I needed – beauty, fresh air and a friend. I normally go there very often with my clients so it had felt strange to not visit the gardens for so many months.

Photos of the above outings, plus of course one of Vida, the world’s cutest dog who just happens to own me.

A member of the ferarria family – slightly stinky odour, to attract flies.

Carpets of flowers at the West Coast National Park – one of the loveliest of all the National Parks.

Rondebosch Common and a few flowers

The magnificent backdrop of mountains at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens


Last but not last, my usual plea for help to save my tourism business with a link to my crowdfund campaign. All contributions madly appreciated!

NB: advertising on this blog is selected by WordPress and I derive no income from any of it.

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.


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.



The day it rained waterfalls


This really is my photo of the day.

I’d heard it would rain today but the intensity of it took me by surprise. Within a couple of hours the garden was flooded, roads were flooded, blocked drains overflowed, cars broke down and the usual ‘first-rain-of-the-season-cape-town-idiots-driving’, and everyone was moaning big time.  The closer you were to the Table Mountain range the more it rained. I know it’s the end of summer but this is very early, these storms are for May and August, not April. April is supposed to be Still Fairly Nice.

Anyhow, after being very grumpy about my car aquaplaning through a flooded road with the water coming up to the top of the wheels and subsequently sopping wet inside (again!), I had to listen to people raving about the many beautiful waterfalls cascading down Table Mountain. The sun was coming out and the light was glistening on the water and it was soooo lovely… blah blah blah.. I’m surprised the ravers weren’t crashing their cars from being distracted by the waterfalls and using their phones to call the radio or tweet about it.

So off I went to my meeting at Kirstenbosch and ‘lo and behold, the mountain above Kirstenbosch had … waterfalls! I stopped and took a few pics. It’s too far away for my phone camera to do it great justice but here’s the biggest one.

The curator of Kirstenbosch told us that today they measured 272 mm of rain compared to the average of 111 mm, so don’t tell me this rain is normal for this time of year.

As I said, it really is the photo of the day because I posted it on Twitter, and my personal Facebook as well as the company FB page.  So it’s gone totally viral*.

And now it’s pouring again. I don’t know how the dog keeps it in, she’s hardly been outside today.

Oh, and I won 2 bottles of wine in the meeting raffle. I’ll review it tomorrow.

*not really


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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