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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

We struck Gold!

Phil at Gold

After two postponements we finally got to Gold Restaurant last night for an African evening of drumming, food and dance. One of the perks of my job is being invited to try stuff like nice hotels and restaurants so that I can include them in my tours. Love it!

I hadn’t told Phil that the evening was to start with a drumming session and it turned out to be a perfect surprise – he’s under pressure at the moment so he gave that drum a good hiding. Our hands were red and very sore afterwards but it was lekker to make all that noise in time with all the other people – we brought the roof down, man! When the session was over I went to look at our lovely instructor’s hands – wow, talk about callouses! Phil wants to join a drumming group now but he didn’t see that man’s hands.

Then it was yummy time. The meal consists of 14 courses … everything was absolutely delicious … mostly small tapas size bites of different foods from various African countries. We polished off a bottle of excellent Rickety Bridge Shiraz while we worked our way through all the dishes being brought to the table one after the other. My mouth is watering as I write this and I could kill for a plateful of the Moroccan chicken pie.

During the meal a Malian dance group entertained us with singing, dancing and more drumming … one of the puppets took a shine to Phil, as you can see in the pic above. Most people were given a little fondle, but Phil got a complete cuddle.

I’m totally going to take visitors there or recommend it to my clients, it’s a really nice experience, combining all the elements of the diverse culture of Africa.  Check out their website  and look through the menu for details of all the courses, and bear it in mind for functions or a different evening out. I’m going to book my big school reunion there next year, many of my old school mates have left the country and not been back for many years, and some have spouses that have never been here at all – they will love this, and it’s not even expensive!

Tanzanian fish

I completely forgot to take photos of the first few courses which is silly because they were the most photogenic and you could see the crockery properly – it’s very pretty crockery! The dish on the bottom right was a sublime Tanzanian fish, one of our favourites.

Dancers at Gold

Restaurant

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Very fast dancing

Spring, kinda

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First day of spring and I’d hoped to go and see the flowers in the West Coast National Park and at the same time test the new company wheels on an open road. But it rained this morning, then the sky was overcast for most of the day, and the flowers, being mostly daisies, need sun to show their faces – as you can see above, a field of orange daisies all with their petals shut.

So I changed the plan and Heather and I went to the little village of Philadelphia for lunch. They call it a town but there’s a church, a post office, 2 streets and 3 restaurants, so I’m sticking to village. It’s only about 40 km from the city centre but you may as well be way out in the sticks, since it’s surrounded by farms and canola fields which look stunning at the moment. I wasn’t very inspired to take outdoor photos but I took a few in a little gem of a shop called Magical Minerals. They specialise in crystals and minerals but also have a rather decent selection of gifts and fun retro items.

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Remember these? Kaleidoscopes!

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Indeed.
Not the full poem and the title is misspelled but still one of my favourites.

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Very retro – press underneath and the character collapses.

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Even more retro – cheaper than the collapsing character but more entertaining.

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Kicking myself for not buying some for the next season of Game of Thrones.

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Told you it’s spring!

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Classic Cape Dutch gabbling on this house but the section in the middle is puzzling as it looks Victorian.
I enquired on a ‘Cape buildings’ group on Facebook and was told this: “A whole Cape Dutch style (as opposed to the original Cape Dutch Architecture) developed after the design and building of Groote Schuur. A number of English architects, schooled in arts and crafts, started practise in SA. This is the result thereof. The style still exists and continues to develop.”

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The new wheels.
I wanted Heather to drape herself seductively across the bonnet but she can only do that in a bikini so this will have to do until summer.

A hot winter’s night in Gansbaai

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Continuing the theme of trying to ignore the current weather as the Cape of Storms lives up to its name, here are some pics of Gansbaai, taken 2 weeks ago when winter turned into glorious summer for a week.

Firstly, let the record show that Gansbaai is a very unlovely town. It has amazing sunsets but the town is nothing special, never mind that it’s slap-bang in the middle of the Overberg which is a magnificent region. Gansbaai has managed to outkak itself.

It’s famous for two things: poaching (okay, it’s notorious for poaching) and shark-cage diving. Poaching is another topic altogether but the shark thing surprised me. I’ve not been comfortable with the idea of chumming to attract sharks for the sole purpose of human thrills and big profits (and I mean big, this is huge business and tourists are flocking to do this) but after my recent site visit, talking to people, getting a feel for the place, I suspect that one of these days I will get into that cage and give it a go. Hey, why not?

Oh and, although my Overberg tour features the lovely 5 star Grootbos Nature Reserve just a few kms away, I did find a really nice guesthouse in Gansbaai where I will happily take clients and I recommend it highly; it’s a gem in this drab town. Saxon Lodge has lovely hosts Dave and Caron, comfy rooms, and great views.

Tours du Cap

The little black bit at the bottom of the sun is …. Cape Point!

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Saxon Lodge – nice comfy friendly guest house. Note the blue sky. Nice to remember.

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I feel bad because I’ve forgotten the cat’s name but he was very sweet and totally blind, yet he managed to get around easily and always seemed to sense my presence. We hung out quite a lot.

Hermanus

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Hermanus by night

Continuing on my recent solo Overberg roadtrip, I spent the last night in Hermanus as a guest of the Quarters Hotel.  Hermanus has become extremely touristy and commercialised and the streets near the ocean are very congested at times but the modernising has been done nicely, you can’t hep but like it. It’s best to park your car and just walk – I’m glad I did that and had some time to wander around alone.

Despite being mid-winter it was as hot as a summer’s day, even at sunset when I arrived. I checked into my hotel at lightning speed and went to catch the last of the sunset, take a few mediocre photos and stroll through the town. A light meal and a glass of wine at a little tapas place, some people watching and eavesdropping on their conversations (nothing interesting on this occasion) and then I went to explore my hotel room. Not bad.  The bathroom is open-plan to the bedroom (but you can pull down a discreet blind and close it off) and I lay in the bath watching tv for a while before I got bored with that. It’s not a cheap hotel and was very comfortable but I found it a bit awkward that the only way to plug in a charger is to unplug the bedside light; and there was no mini-bar – yes, I know, they cost the earth but sometimes you want a nightcap.

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Every town on the whale route has one of these. That’s my hotel in the background, sandwiched between 2 ancient fisherman’s cottages.

Next morning up nice and early, breakfast (I have a guilty pleasure: I love hotel breakfasts!), and time to explore Hermanus. First I explored the little square where the last remaining old fishermen cottages are – it’s such a pity so few have been retained, they’re such a classic sight in this part of the world but sadly Hermanus hasn’t many left. I walked along the cliff top for a distance, further out of town as opposed to the town bits I do with clients – it’s nicer out of town. This cliffwalk is not only lovely but there are no steep bits so I love it! I saw some whales of course, and then drove up to Fernkloof Nature Reserve. That was a treat – I walked through the garden and a little way up the mountainside which was full of stunning proteas. I picked up a tick which I only discovered later – ticks freak me out but there is that thrill of feeling like you’ve done a bit of bundu-bashing to get it. I bought some plants at the nursery, including a special dark orange black-eyed Susan that I can never find in town, and there’s one I haven’t planted yet because I’ve completely forgotten what it is so don’t know where to put it. It’s been sitting on the table outside and has grown so much I suspect it might be a creeper but am not sure what type.

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Fernkloof

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Fernkloof

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Fernkloof

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Fernkloof was really looking very pretty

I went to the Hemel en Aarde Village which has some really lovely little shops  and did a wine tasting at the Hermanuspietersfontein shop – that’s a mouthful of a name but guess what? That was the original name of Hermanus, named after the visionary who saw the potential of this area, but now obviously shortened for convenience. I bought some Kleinboet, a most delectable Bordeaux blend.

The boys came up from town and after lunch we went for dessert to a coffee shop owned by a friend just out of town – that was cool. We were in high spirits, the desserts were divine, the friend was so happy to see us that we were made to down-down a couple of Grappas and then it was time to head on home.

One of the boys raced back to town via the highway and the other one came with me as we returned via the scenic coastal road with a stop at Stoney Point in Betty’s Bay to see the penguins. It was closing just as we arrived but we managed to spot a few ducking in the bushes.

This was the last day of my roadtrip but I’m not blogging in the order of the trip so there’s more to come.

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I wondered how many people throw those ribbons away. I removed it carefully and put it on a shelf, they’d better have used it again.

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Clarence Drive – such a photogenic place

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The old Hermanus harbour at sunset

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Check out those socks.

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Very old wall in Hermanus

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Easily the prettiest hotel in Hermanus from the outside – will check it out inside one of these days.

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Can’t be too many towns in the world where the old harbour is a national monument.

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Middle of winter in Hermanus – the tourists were happy.

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The dassies (hyrax) at Stoney Point are not at all shy.

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Stoney Point African penguin

Roadtrip – one night in the lap of luxury

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Dawn breaking over Walker Bay

I’d been drooling over their website for days and finally I arrived at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, just after Stanford on the road to Gansbaai. I’m glad there weren’t many other guests around because I’m sure I lowered the tone of the place with my presence, although the staff were extremely kind and made me feel like a queen – a flute of champagne on the veranda was the first order of the day, followed by a nibble of salad from the buffet and a discussion with guides about which activities I would like to do.

This has to be the most luxurious and beautiful place I have ever had the privilege of spending a night. The decor is stunningly tasteful, every comfort you could possibly ask for has been provided, the surroundings are magnificent – every suite and every corner of the 2000 hectares has a fabulous view over Walker Bay and/or De Kelders.

I stayed in Forest Lodge which is in a milkwood forest – even the path to the suites is lovely! I had barely had time to inspect my huge bathroom, bedroom with 4 poster mozzie-net covered kingsize bed, dressing room, lounge and kitchenette with an array of delicious goodies, when it was time to dash back to the main reception to be whisked off for a horseback ride through the property. I haven’t been on a horse in so many years I was a tad anxious but it went well. My ride, Knight, was very sweet and we had a wonderful ride through the fynbos for about an hour. After this I was collected by another guide for a drive to De Kelders to watch the whales frolic and the gorgeous sunset.

Back in my suite I treated myself to a bath just as the light was fading – the view from the bathroom is as marvelous as anywhere else, even from the loo! For dinner I was joined by the assistant manageress which was a nice touch, and she told me all about this marvelous property – the staff love it so much there is a very low staff turnover, the owner is highly respected for his attitude and what he gives back in the way of a Foundation and a horticultural school which is free for selected students. Supper was a delicious 6 course meal with perfect service from lovely friendly staff.

Next morning I was awake before dawn and eager to get cracking but I lingered with coffee in bed and a long shower with stunning view. After breakfast of two delicious croissants with Grootbos’s own honey, fruit and coffee from the stunning breakfast buffet (I should have given myself more time to pig out on all the other goodies available!) I was fetched for a site visit of the other accommodation lodge – Garden Lodge – and the Villa. The site visit was, in fact, the purpose of this trip in the first place. The Garden Lodge is as lovely as the Forest Lodge, child-friendly with stables nearby and a play room that will keep kids of all ages happy for hours on end.

And a tour of The Villa – ermergaard … The Villa.. it’s to die for!!!  6 bedrooms each with an en-suite bathroom the size of my lounge, all with fab views. There’s a braai (bbq) on one side of the house as well as an indoor one, a kitchen to cater for an army, several lounges, a playroom, a priceless art collection, a grand piano, a gorgeous pool, and it all comes with your own private chef, butler, guide and vehicle.  It was a battle to tear myself away. After this opulent elegance we went for a long drive through the property in a 4×4 with my lovely field guide who told me all sorts of interesting stuff about fynbos that I didn’t know.

There’s a lot of luxury around and I get to see quite a bit in my work but what impressed me about Grootbos is that they have found the perfect combination where nothing is over the top, nothing is crass, nothing is overdone – it’s all just darn perfect! For a night and a day I lived like a queen and totally loved every minute of it. Now to get my clients to book an Overberg tour so that I can go back!

Now feast your eyes on a whack of photos and add Grootbos to your wish list.

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A flute of champagne on my arrival

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My lounge, all to myself

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Sunset from my balcony

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View from my bed in the morning with my coffee

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Even the kitchen at the Villa has a piece of art

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In case you forget to bring a book to the Villa

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One of the many lounges in the Villa

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The Villa pool

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Musical soirees at the Villa are mandatory

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The memory of this bathroom at the Villa will live on in my mind for ever

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The pink erica is in full bloom at the moment and the mountainside is a carpet of pink. This particular one – erica irregularis – is endemic to this region.

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More art

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The lovely Anecke, my field guide for my entire stay. Her passion for her work and her place of work are infectious.

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Exterior view of the Villa

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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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