Monday, August 24, 2015

Early Spring.

What greater delight is there than to behold the earth apparelled with plants, as with a robe of embroidered worke, set with Orient pearles and garnished with great diversitie of rare and costly jewels? - John Gerard, Herbal, 1597.


In her fantastic South African tome, Indigenous Plant Palettes, Marijke Honig talks about the exceptional diversity of bulbs, evergreen and deciduous - my own favourite. Jewellery for the garden, she says. I love her idea of planting them under a spiral of gravel.


I have been drawn to Lachenalias since I saw them blooming a year ago in the wild, on a mountain pass near Ceres. I had forgotten about them. Also known as the Cape Cowslip, Afrikaans people call them Laggienaggies - small laughs in the nighttime. 

My friend the botanist has pointed out that this is in fact an orchid. Which is even more wonderful - as it was growing very close to snow!

We have some of the hybrids now - they are large, loud and flashy compared to their wild cousins - although I find them rather wonderful.







In the hotter front garden, the pincushion bushes are exploding with buds and flowers. They are airy and filled with light. In the golden hour at the end of the day, they become setting suns.



Thursday, August 20, 2015

Fledglings.


We woke up this morning to a lot of warning chirrups from the Robin parents. When we peeked out of the bedroom window, one of the babies was on the garage roof. I said: But surely he can't fl.....! and then he did. Even though his tail hasn't grown in yet.
They spent some time hopping around the back garden and have now settled on the other side of the house, in deep undergrowth with high bush cover. Clever.
The nest is empty.
It's bittersweet.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

The owls are not what they seem.


I am so excited by the work of JohDel...
We met him at his recent exhibition at The Eye in town.
(More about them in a later post)
We bought The Owls Are Not What They Seem and Tree of Life.


We've just got them back from the framer - Rooiwolf, that's red wolf in Afrikaans. He uses only indigenous, sustainable woods for his frames - ours are kiaat, and very beautiful. I can stare at these intricate images for hours.

I can also stare at the work of Eric Ravilious for hours. The Attic Bedroom was painted in 1931. It reminds me of my grandmother's attic, where the cousins and I stayed every holiday when we were children. Six beds in a row. Very happy times. It's where my love for attics was born. We are having a start made on our own attic conversion, hearts in our mouths. Right now it doesn't feel so much more than a big pile of wood in the driveway.
When the builder tells you it will be a simple job, ALWAYS take it with a bag of salt.

But maybe one day it will feel a little like this:


News from the Robin family:
the babies are growing so fast! Their parents are kept very busy catching worms and other goggas. Today I saw them flying some peanut butter over. Pretty soon the nest will be too small...

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Deep South.

Living on a peninsula, as we do, means being prepared when you leave home. Extra clothes, a hat, perhaps a snack. Distances are great and there is no turning back. You learn to plan your outing: acupuncture goes with checking the post box goes with the odd haircut or book and record shopping along the way. Exceptions are made for live music.

I last wrote about Benguela in 2010, just after the release of their album Black South Easter.

I saw Benguela play at the Speedway
on Thursday night. 
Their music is a little perplexing to label. Strings of stylistic tags pop into my head and most of them feel inapt. The term 'improv' has always irked me. So. Rooted in jazz - but without the structure, dripping electronic treatments, dark psych guitar and double bass, loungy low-end sections. Tenacious levels of technical proficiency. Intricate cadence. Tough yet tender. Warm and deep. The music unfolds and then folds back on itself. At times I felt like I was underwater.

 After seeing them at a tiny jazz bar the other night, I wax on:
 Perhaps it's just the shortening of the word improvisation that I don't like. For improvise is what they do. They don't play songs, they play... fugues. They play luscious rhapsodies.
Their technical virtuosity has but grown. The tall man spoke about the way Cream's Ginger Baker referred to a drummer's ability to swing. Then he said: Well, I think he'd agree - Ross swings.
Ross Campbell is the frontman - the only one of the trio who occasionally looks up and speaks. Alex Bozas and Brydon Bolton live in a shimmering world of their own: introspection and guitar pedals. Endless nuance.

We stayed for both sets, leaving mesmerised and in wonder. Wishing that there were recordings of every session, like the Grateful Dead.



Back at home we have not been underwater, we have had none. Daily events leave one thinking that South Africa IS in fact going to hell in a hand basket. The gradual closing of post offices with mail not arriving. Regular power cuts. The fact that a broken municipal stopcock takes three days to fix. Never-ending phone calls to the city council, just to find out that there is only one small truck and four men taking care of the water woes of an entire peninsula.

The tall man eventually went looking for them to beg. At the address supplied he found a small van. Are you water?, he asked.
No, we're phone.
Directed a little further on, he found the men inside a hole as big as our lounge, fixing a vast burst pipe.
One of them had a small torn slip of paper in his pocket with our address on it, written in pencil. They communicate with the council via radio.
One forgets how dismal a life is with no shower, no flush toilet, no running water. That millions of people in the townships and rural areas live without, walking miles sometimes to fill containers.
Then again, we pay big bills and expect service in return.


I suppose I often write about the smaller pleasures to keep the darkness at bay. Here's one for you:
The eggs have hatched! I snuck a quick peek. They are the smallest little wisps of dark grey down you can imagine, with yellow beaks always open for more.
Robin and Robin's mate make music too.
Cherooo-weet-weet-weeeet.











Friday, July 31, 2015

Slow blooming.

I am fascinated by shade plants - especially the indigenous South African bulb varieties. I bought a winter red hot poker or forest lily bulb from the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden's shop last year, with no indication of colour. In february I noticed the tip of a flower bud appearing - like the spear of a baby asparagus.

Since then, it has developed, ever so slowly.




Even though there is thick snow on the mountains of Ceres and the nights here are very cold, the garden is waking up...
The tiny green pineapples that are lachenalia buds are poking from the earth, the tightly coiled pincushion buds are unpinning and the aloes continue being their magnificent selves.




Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Robin-chat.


In a quiet, mossy corner of the garden, a robin has made her nest.


For days it was empty, then there was one egg and on the next day, there were two. Perhaps there are three now, but we keep our distance. Last year's eggs didn't hatch. The gate is out of action for a few weeks, we tippy-toe nearby and draw the bedroom curtains as slowly and quietly as we can.


Extra peanut butter is put out daily and now we wait...

Friday, July 17, 2015

Magpie.

Apothecary jars sit on the windowsills, full of porcelain shards and other bits and pieces collected over the past two years.
Marbles, buttons, glass stoppers and lost limbs.


Last time we were at Churchaven, we met a man on Boerplein who took us back to his tiny house and showed us some of his finds. He gave me the piece with the temple on it, and wanted me to take more.
I didn't have the heart to tell him that half of the joy was in the finding. So I told him the story of the Willow pattern.
We dream of living there, but I could see that he was very lonely.


Walking above Pottebakkerij, we met some flower children and were rewarded with a tune on the didgeridoo. The instrument was so long that it rested on the ground, and he tapped a small round shaker against the cylinder as he blew...
even the birds stopped to listen.