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.

Stuff and the joys of decluttering

I haven’t written in over a month and this blog has moved away slightly from its original purpose. The past few months have been torrid and it’s been almost impossible to be or do anything not mired in depression and anxiety. One day I’ll look back on this period amzed at what I’ve endured. I hate cliches, but this, too, shall pass.

I’ve suffered dreadful depression and high anxiety for a few years. Not too long, just the past 5 or so years. I guess it was always there lurking underneath, but specific events and situations gave it life. I am on medication, I have to lecture myself all the time, I can erupt easily, and I cry easily. But the meds help. A lot.

I’ve had support and help from one friend in particular who I can say without any reservation has been my rock. Without him, I’d be dead. Maybe even literally, because suicide was on my mind for a long time. But really, really, on my mind. It was a fantasy solution that played itself over and over, something planned and ready to be executed. My rock understood, supported, gave advice, played the shrink, sent me to a real shrink, and did not recoil. Unlike some – oh my goodness, how some people are terrified of the word. The very notion that someone else might be suffering so much is just too much for them to deal with. They might as well tell you to shut up and suffer in silence, which as far as they are concerned, is the best way.

But I woke up one day, put on my big girl pants and decided I was *not* going to die. I found that last vestige of life and courage deep inside me and nurtured it. I also addressed one of the biggest problems facing me and dealt with it, once and for all. Like a big girl.

This big girl has also decided to make a major life change. I am relocating, very far away. Away from my comfort zone to a different, new, comfort, away from all that is familiar and off to the bosom of family. From the fear of old-age poverty to state sponsored medical care. From open spaces and unique vegetation to safety, security and seasonal salad. I’m going to need a new blog title and concept.

Relocating abroad means selling all your stuff. I can’t afford to spend loads of money on schlepping my junk halfway across the world and … guess what? I won’t need it! As tough as it is, I am realising that stuff is just stuff and I can live without most of it. I will take just enough to make me feel at home in my new home but the rest goes to worthy causes or gets exchanged for lucre. And the lucre goes towards the cost of taking what really matters, my beloved dog and that of my son who is already waiting for us all.

But, oh my word, the packing and the decisions and the realisation that my precious belongings are just junk in some peoples’ eyes. The majority of things that matter the most are items I either picked up on a beach or in a forest – what am I to do with my stone and shell collection? Or planted lovingly – I’ll never get to see the tree grow majestic. Or were given to me by my mother an eternity ago? How can I sell the art deco cups she very specifically said I must have and not my siblings? Who would buy the strange piece she painted during her Jackson Pollock period?

I think I do look forward to the day I have divested myself of most belongings. I know there will be a feeling of freedom and liberty. Me and a couple of suitcases, because a girl needs shoes and her big-girl panties, and my faithful dog, and off we will go!

Today marks one month before I move out of my house. That’ll be followed by 6 weeks in a temporary lodging, and then the adventure will begin with a long drive across the country … watch this space!

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.

Hullo 2021 !

I feel as if I’ve been dragged into 2021. Not quite kicking and screaming because I’m jolly grateful I made it, but more like sluggishly limply dragged along the floor, gathering up life’s detritus as I was swept along. I’ve brought all the crap from 2020, and before, with me.

There’s no such thing as a new leaf, a new beginning, a new anything, this week – it’s just a calendar date, not a cataclysmic event that changes everything overnight. Look at Covid – that didn’t happen overnight, it crept up on us. It will go away in just the same way, slowly. Until one day there are no more infections, no more masks, and the survivors look back and ask what the fuck was that about? Will we be ready for the next virus? Will any lessons be learned from this one? I doubt it. We’ve known this was coming and yet when it hit us, we were unprepared.

And now the pharmaceutical companies are screwing us over the vaccines because rich countries are outbidding each other. I have already heard the term ‘vaccine apartheid’. Canada has bought enough to vaccinate all its citizens five times over. The UK and US are totally screwing up their distribution process, despite their wealth and so-called first-world abilities. China and Russia have cheap unapproved versions. South Africa? Seems we’re going to manufacture for export and we can’t afford the 60 million shots we need. If we had not lost trillions during a preceding president’s terms, we would be in a better financial position. The current government is refusing to share its plan with us, assuming they have one. Our President creates Instagram photo opps by jogging with the rich but refuses serious interviews.

And on that cheerful note, here we are January 3. The weather in Cape Town is hot and sunny. The dogs are lazy yet dying for a run on the beach or green belt which is not possible because those places are forbidden. I am bored and unable to concentrate on anything for very long, so reading is not as rewarding as it could be, same for Netflix which has nothing new. This is when I think maybe owning a tv set would be good so I could switch it on and just stare mindlessly.

The beady eye from Vida and a strange little miniature sunflower that I am growing. I say strange because I had no idea it would be so small.

I have not earned any income for almost a year as tourism has ground to a halt. One of the most difficult things I’ve ever done was to set up a crowdfunding campaign to try raise enough money to pay off my touring vehicle before the bank could repossess it. I’ve had an excellent response, mainly from ex clients. Here is the link in case anyone wants to chip in a few dollars. Many, many thanks in advance.

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!

October, finally the Cape of Good Hope

As a tour guide in Cape Town I get to visit the Cape of Good Hope very often, sometimes several times in one week. I never get bored of it and after months of not going there I felt deprived. That is the National Park I missed most of all during lockdown. Even more frustrating is that it’s not far from where I live. I didn’t want to go there until they had opened the entire park so I waited until all sections were declared open. No one could explain why one or two roads might be less safe than others or why hiking was not permitted – we’re talking of a 7700 hectare park with very few people around – it doesn’t get any safer or more socially distant than that.

Anyway, as soon as it was fully open, Sheila and I shot off like bats out of hell to take advantage of this most wonderful and beloved place. We drove up and down all the side roads, enjoyed a picnic with barely a soul around and for once no baboons came to steal from us, and took many happy photos. We were especially grateful that there was no wind because when it blows down there, it blows – it’s the windiest place in South Africa.

The joy of having the park to ourselves was a double-edged sword : no crowds means no work and no income. It’s a horrible situation to be in – on the one hand I love the peace and quiet of having roads and places to ourselves, but at the same time it’s decimated my industry. I was quite emotional to see the empty parking lot which is usually full of coaches and smaller tourism vehicles.

Towards the end of October I ran away from home. The day started off very badly with the bank threatening to take my touring minibus because I had fallen behind on payments. They were refusing to discuss this with me – all calls and emails requesting a meeting were ignored, then one day they simply demanded it. I pointed out this was not permitted without going through a process and they temporarily backed off, but I knew I was in trouble.

I decided to run away. I grabbed Vida off we went, heading for a beautiful beach that I have been meaning to take her to. There are not many beaches here we can let dogs run free but Scarborough beach, next to the Cape of Good Hope on the opposite side of the peninsula to where I live, is one of them. We even stopped at a little restaurant in Scarborough where I shared a burger and fries with her. (She’s on diet now because someone on Facebook pointed out that lockdown had not been kind to her waistline either – she’s a bit of a Facebook sensation so I am grateful for her fans’ attention.).

It was a fabulous day and we didn’t want to come home, but we did, and I started toying with an idea of how to prevent the bank from taking my minibus, see below after photos.

Did you watch My Octopus Teacher? This is where it was filmed.

Pics above: no coaches in parking lot; no diners on restaurant terrace, no tour guides gossiping in front of snake sign. This is NOT how I know these sights!

One of my favourite views across False Bay from the restaurant terrace.

Pics above: The most south-western tip of Africa, ostriches courting dance and two locals being tourists.

Scarborough beach: Vida in her element and lots of space for running and walking safely!

Spring flowers from my garden

The tourism industry is still stuck in Covid-19 limbo and I’ve set up a fundraising campaign to try save my business from being destroyed by my bank. Here is the link and I thank you in advance for any contribution.

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.


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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