Saturday, January 31, 2015

Have you lost something?

A strange pair we make - walking, bent over, scanning the veldt. Concerned people want to help us find what it is we are looking for. How to explain the thrill of finding fragments of a distant daily life? 

On a ramble three weeks ago, I found a particularly intriguing shard of porcelain - the letter "O"...
Exactly one week later, I found the entire plate at the Milnerton Market. That's the kind of synchronicity that makes one gasp.

Tunstall, England, 1890's.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Curcuma Longa.

The name is a caress.
In all the years that I've been growing Turmeric from rhizomes, I've never had a plant that bloomed.

But look!

 It snuck up on me - the buds are shy and initially only visible from one side.

After a day or two, as if that wondrous bloom was not enough, from each furled green bract popped a fanged yellow dragon.
Hermaphrodites I am told.

I can't wait to see what happens next...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Let me count the ways.

The names of the Karoo towns are spelled out in white stones upon the hills. Not only the names, but also slogans: DRA WOL. Wear wool.
For this is sheep country.

Many have come this way, then left again.

At sunset we crossed the Orange River and passed some locals drinking cocktails on the bridge.
Later we had a cold beer under a loquat tree at the Bethulie Hotel, bats flitting and swooping through the leaves above us.

It was very hot and during the night it rained.
I had forgotten how much I like this warm summer rain and the smells and the sounds that go with it.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Yugo Stores.

Sunlight soap, paraffin, lighthouse candles, mielie meal and marshmallow mice. The smell is a combination of these things and it transports me straight back to childhood summers, when my mother used to take us to buy slip slops at Dups - the ones that only came in blue, with little fish shapes pressed into the rubber.

The same shelves covered in gift wrap. Bicycle spares, plastic dolls in cellophane, razor blades, enamel mugs, zam-buk salve in tins, lifebuoy soap, vicks cough drops and tokoloshe salts.

Opened in 1946 by Archie's parents, long gone now. We left with a red enamel dish, stoney ginger beer and a small glass bottle of coca cola, ice cold.

56 4th Avenue

Sunday, December 21, 2014

While we were out.

The past few weeks have been relentless. Long hours and constant demands, with every day bringing it's particular problems. Coming home - sometimes in the dark, to a moody valley.

Noticing that others had visited, I watered when I could.

Every week six days of sweating and swearing and heavy lifting.
Trucks full of furniture, smoke and mirrors.
Schools, churches, bars and hospitals.

We had very little time to ourselves.
A quick ginger gimlet, the stroke of a paw, trying to keep up with a glut of tomatoes - sharing them with the starlings. Glimpses of lives very different from mine.

I had to remind myself, sometimes, that I am very lucky.

While we were out, a beet grew and grew and grew.

A fairy tale beet, a show bull of a beet weighing in at 940 grams.
Head and shoulders pushing out of the soil.

Once slaughtered, yielding a slice of moreish cake.
The beetroot is there in every bite, dark and earthy.
Cinnamon and poppy seed.

It's good to be home.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Bergamot and heartwood.

This is the work that allows me to take time off in the Winter. It is my livelihood and I should be thankful. And of course I am... but sometimes I become resentful. All of a sudden I am not only responsible for myself, but for a team of six. The emotions, the particular problems, the language barriers. It's more depleting than any physical work, of which there is a fair share as well.

In the garden the fennel has grown taller than me. In the evenings I water and I long to spend more time there. The turmeric is shooting up by a foot a week. I brush against the bergamot bush and think of Aida. People are wonderful, and terrible.
Mostly a bit of both.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

There have been cats.

There have been cats in my life that I have loved more than humans.
Thinking of Estorbo, and the woman and the man.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

This little pig went to market.

If you were to go back to the beginning of this blog, some five years back, you'd see that it was originally a record of my finds at the Milnerton boot sale. And then you would see that life stepped in, not shortly after.

But I still go to the market whenever I can and I still find things there that I love.
This morning Bev had a pair of Victorian wick trimming scissors for my growing collection of used tools. Ernest phoned me last week to say that he had found some wooden cotton reels for me. They have become a passion - I must have close to two hundred by now.

Last night's dream about Tuareg necklaces came back to me with a shiver as I held the one above. When I told Bev she said: Oh Darling no - then you must have it. She refused to let me pay.
I believe in these things you know...

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Singing in the dark.

I've been reading - with delight and a sore heart, Marguerite Poland's Taken Captive by Birds. The people in Exclusive Books who have packed it next to the coffee table books about lions and cheetahs haven't the foggiest idea.

This writing strikes my heart like a gong. Is it an African affliction? I find it in the writing of my friend Marie, in faraway New York. In the books of my friend Diane, just down the road.
(Don't let's go to the dogs tonight.)

Singular miseries. Nobody knows the trouble I have seen...
But we recognise each other and there is comfort in that.
Over oceans and through windows.
Woman, I love you. This wry laughter we share.

I can't say it better than Wednesday Addams: "I'll stop wearing black when they invent a darker colour."

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Jungle style.

Having been an apartment dweller for many years, few things give me more pleasure than walking out the back door and picking an enamel bowl full of lettuce for the evening's salad. Knowing that there will be more tomorrow.

I love the way the vegetable garden is transforming itself - I allow plants to go to seed and the seedlings that grow from them are better than the mother plants. Strong, bushy coriander and vigorous mint. There are no neat rows in this place. A robust tomato plant has appeared in a sunny spot next to the compost maker - sheltered by a rocky wall. I have a feeling it's from a wrinkled, discarded salad tomato from Woolworths - perhaps Bella. The fruits are perfect, clusters and clusters of them - though they have yet to reveal their colour.

The giant lacy flower of a carrot - who would have thought?

Spring onions bloom.

The last of the boer bone. As I shelled the previous lot, I thought they were too much trouble. But then I made Yotam Ottolenghi's pan-fried meatballs with lemon and broad beans.
They will grow again...