Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Whose woods these are I think I know.

It's poetry. So rich in metaphor that I have to stop after each paragraph to reflect.
A single nightjar wing, and the imprint it left upon a muddy track in Ethiopia.

At Babylonstoren, in one of the walled gardens, there is a weeping mulberry and thickets of Leonotus Leonurus. Lion's Tails - minty and furry. Wilde Dagga.

Amongst the hanging trails of mulberry leaves are two man-made weaver's nests. To get inside, you climb a little iron ladder. I could stay there for hours, with a blanket and a book. The weavers are in the tree around you, busy with their particular hullabaloo.

Tiny red leaves fiddled their way to the floor, floating slowly, pellucid and pretty, while gravity seemed to push them back up to the sky.

Afterwards, the consolation of fresh pressed juice without having to wash the many parts of the juicer.

And a beetroot cupcake, made with the pulp.

The fowl are shiny and fat and the donkeys are fed sweet chopped herbs.

Back at home, a robin hovers over the mirror of the old Land Rover on the grass. He pecks and flutters, scaring intruders away day after day. For this garden belongs to him and his mate
and that is good to know.

Tomorrow there will be fresh bread,
with the promise of a crumb or two.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Ode to Bread.

I've always wanted to bake real sourdough bread. The San Francisco stuff with the starter and the heaps of trouble and bedevilment. Baking - especially bread baking, has always made me feel so virtuous. All that kneading - like a farm woman!

I pored over those recipes. Page one would have me enthralled, but by the time I reached page four I always seemed to have lost my enthusiasm. Enter No Knead Bread...
Labelled Sourdough in the last Platteland, I made it the very day the magazine arrived.

Loaf after loaf after loaf.

There are thousands of variations on the internet. Click here for the basic recipe. Lately I've been making it with rye flour and sometimes have left the dough for almost an entire day before baking it.

So let the dough forgive you and get over the guilt.
For it is true: some things in life are easy.

Sunday, May 31, 2015


This is the time that I look forward to, when I work. Nowhere to be, no alarm clocks. Nothing much to worry about, besides getting the bread in the oven...

I end those films deeply weary. I don't give myself the chance to get ill when I'm working and invariably get the flu straight after.

When we do the work we do, personal things heap up - I'd like to write more - there are unfinished posts in my box, there are photographs I had plans for. There is a pile of mending on the chair. I think of the doctor who laughed when I asked him if he did any other sewing - his suture was so neat and his method so meticulous. He laughed and said: No, just skin.

On my external drive I found these photographs the other day, from some years back and two cameras ago. Coffee with friends. The cake was delicious - it was their wedding cake a while before that. Similar to panettone or colomba, but better. Light and fruity with a sugary crust.

I spent some time looking at their collections, so lovely.

And I think that I haven't seen them in a long time and I should change that. A year ago we stood in the park watching a band play soul music and looking up, we saw a boy and a girl up in a tree, kissing.

The rain is falling at a slant, birds are stripping the last dark berries from the myrtle. It was time for the first fire in the grate last night. Bones and muscles will knit and scars will fade.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Heaven is a place.

While Tannie Sylvie has a bathroom built in the old house, we have to stay elsewhere. My first thought was - how will the birds find us? I needn't have worried.

They were there in under a minute. 

For several days, behind the boat shed, a coppery mole snake lay in the sun digesting his dinner.
I surprised an eland one night when I went to toss an avocado pip into the bushes. We shone a torch and there he was, rising out of the mist. He regarded us solemnly, small puffs of warm breath escaping as he chewed. Then he turned and slowly walked away. Beyond him stood four more. It made me smile lying in bed and hearing their hooves on the concrete floor of the veranda.

The squeals and whistles of francolins, the honking of the flamingoes on the lagoon.

Just before we left I put out a ripe guava and a gang of speckled mousebirds landed for the feast. 

A rorschach test, just for us.
It was hard to leave.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Ode to Guava.

One day in my twenties - after travelling through Europe for a year, I followed my nose from the pavement outside Harrods in London, all the way to the hallowed food hall. I stopped in front of some badly bruised fruit where I stood and wept a little. They were so expensive. And I missed home.

We were staying in a squat in Leytonstone, with an artist who kept strange hours. He was a very nice man, with two dogs he'd rescued from the animal shelter in Battersea. They tore around with their tongues out, forever grateful.
In the back yard there was a very deep hole - an abandoned art installation. Mostly Jesse daubed on large canvasses on the floor.

I decided to cook a big dinner. We happened to be at the Portobello Road market as they were closing and huge boxes of produce were flying though the air at very low prices, along with a good dose of cockney cursing. Mine for a pound, a box of beautiful black eggplant became moussaka. At Sainsbury's I found some canned guavas from Thailand - forty pence a tin.

I served them for dessert, with Bird's custard.
When you grow up eating guavas, you learn to chew them without crunching down on the pips. It's not something you think about.
Jesse's girlfriend - a new arrival from the coast, sat chewing those pips until all the hair stood up on my head. No amount of explaining made an impression.

The next morning she was gone. Skoonveld. Jesse told us that as a matter of principle, she refused to spend another night in the same house as Those South Africans. We had been painted with the broad sweep of a brush as racists. And we ate weird shit.

The tallest man in the world and I have both been under the weather.   We've still to get that holiday feeling. A box of guavas helps. You can smell them from the front door, all sweet and sweaty.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

There's a starfish on our stoep.

From a purple-veined, lantern-shaped bud,

an astonishing flower unfolds.

African Carrion Flower - Orbea Variegata.
Occurs naturally on the slopes of Table Mountain.
Smells... putrid!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The ides of April.

Never was there more welcome news: a call sheet that read
Shoot Day 40 of 40.

Then, one more obstacle. Removal of Basal Cell Carcinoma. South Africa's sunny skies, my youth spent swimming and running around on the beach. What did we know about sunscreen...
I have this to say: don't be a procrastinator like me. I could have saved myself a lot of worry and had a much smaller scar if I had gone a long time ago. I am twelve stitches wiser.

While time heals,  I build collages.

They are a mixture of Istanbul and our garden.
My heart still points to that wonderful place, sharp as a knife.
We will spend the month of September there and I can barely wait.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The season of the butterfly.

In Fish Hoek this morning,
the fog is so thick that I can barely see the houses over the road.
The garden rustles and drips.
A bulbul darts in and out of the eugenias.
Rhubarb stems have turned rosy overnight.

The aloes are in bud and yesterday the sweet smelling tree in the driveway was aflutter with butterflies.

Out at the farm the yarrow patch was covered in drifts of lilac butterflies, each one tinier than my pinkie nail.

My work continues to take me to far flung places. I see them in their autumn glory. This week past I have spent time in Ottery, Lotus River and Philippi. There are mosques and veiled ladies and rastas on bicycles. I met a vegetable gardener admiring his butternut blossoms. I met a fierce squirrel hunter.

At the Klip Road cemetery gates on friday, I saw two fishermen selling snoek from their wide old pick up trucks. On saturday it was a rusty blue El Camino laden with flowers.

Easter came and went. We woke and found a Dutch still life in the kitchen. There was Lamb With A Spoon - every last flake and morsel of shank bone marrow devoured.
Apple and plum crumble soon suffered the same happy fate.

I find myself more depleted after every film I work on. There is little to love about going to work with a lump in your throat, lying awake at night worrying about things that are - in the grand scheme of life, so very superficial.

It took a day of visiting greenhouses and nurseries to remind me how calm and happy these places make me. Outside Stellenbosch, at Bridget Kitley's organic herb nursery, you walk on flagstones that tilt and splash. Bees buzz overhead.
The people who work there do so barefoot and muddy. 
A small striped frog landed on my foot for a second and made me laugh.
Then sigh.

Perhaps these are all clues on the path to solving my conundrum.