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...

Thursday, October 9, 2014

This is how it goes.

You start with a circle, like so:

Every day, more stalks of grass. Just weave 'em in.

Tinker's cuss. There's still a hole on the other side...

But five or six days later - left over right, right over left and Bob's your uncle.

And Nelly's your aunt.

So you make a big ruckus...

Call that broad over.

and if she doesn't like it... 
 You start with a circle.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Cherry Blossom Days.

I've spent a birthday in Hamburg, with Hümmel figurines around my breakfast plate. I've spent a birthday in San Gimignano, where I had pistachio gelato in the rain.

I am a spring baby, and it just felt wrong.

So last week we ambled off to Ceres and overnighted in a
three-little-bears cottage on a cherry farm.

The doorways are like tiny keyholes and to avoid the champagne cork effect, a tall man had to enter sideways in a bit of a crouch.

Did I mention that it was cold?
Heater, electric blankets and a roaring fire.
Oxtail and polenta for supper.

We awoke side by side, tucked into our little bear beds. Presents to unwrap, cherry blossoms and the calls of the coots on the lake. The nearest mountain was covered in snow.

Every time I went out - bejacketed/gloved/hatted, I vowed to bring long johns next time. The weaver nests caught my eye - such beautifully woven things they are. I tried to catch the yellow birds in flight, but my fingertips grew numb.

On the road there and back the mountainsides were covered in lichens so thick you could barely see the rock. Water gushes and trickles. 

The nitidas are covered in huge waxen flowers, soos bruide...
Fields of long creamy throated arum lilies.
Fields of yellow, fields of purple.
Fields of soft velvety green.

And a lost aquatic traveller, helped across the road...

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

There's an eye in the sky...

I've spent the past week working on a film featuring Helen Mirren. I was employed to add a final layer onto her character's bedroom. It's something I really like doing - that final layer. It's what makes a film habitat believable.

An early start in town means rush hour traffic - something I will do anything to avoid, so I decided to take the coastal road. One pays a toll, but you rarely see other cars and the views are spectacular. There's a rocky overhang with a rush of water droplets that never fails to delight me when they spatter onto my windscreen. One evening there was an old man flying ahead of me on a bicycle, wavy grey hair streaming as he pedalled furiously down the hill.

The rising sun over the city was torridly red. The sunsets apricotine. And the harvest moon, the moon, the moon...

I'm bound contractually not to publish photographs of the film sets I work on, so behold: our gooseberry bushes are full of fruit! And Fancy has a new haircut:

We had a young runner on the job and one day, watching me, she asked me how I knew where to put stuff. I told her that I'd learnt by watching others, and by moving things again and again
until they feel right.
 But how do you know when it feels right?
But that is not a question I can answer, because I just know.
I feel it in my bones.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Special powers.

Taken by a very tall man. Los Angeles 2014
 I've been wearing spectacles ever since I was a little girl of nine or so. At first, for reading the writing on the black board at school. For years I walked around in a fuzz, not realising that I needed to wear them all the time. Then, when I was sixteen, I got my first pair of contact lenses. Epiphany: the trees are not big green blobs - they are made up of leaves! And the boys have very hairy legs. (My mom remembers me telling her that)

I've always known my eyes are bad, but it was a shock to me when my optometrist told me that if I had been born in the middle ages, I would have a staff and someone would have had to lead me around - in fact, if my right eye was just a little weaker, I would be legally blind. Not in darkness, but without aid I saw only light, colour and blurry shapes. The long legged man often stands in the doorway and smiles at me - I know this because I hear the tiny kiss of the corners of his mouth. For what my maker took away in sight, I was compensated for with a fine set of ears.

 Last monday I went to see the Superman of corneas, Dr. Michael Attenborough. By a stroke of luck, I was bumped up to have PRK laser surgery on thursday - the waiting list is normally months long. It was over within minutes: the pasting of eyelashes with special curved tape, the flashing lights, the ice cold drops and a smell I'd rather not remember. Gentle words of encouragement from the doctor and the firm pressure of a nurse's hand on my arm the entire time.

I asked him a few days later what it felt like to bring such miraculous change to people's lives. He said that often it doesn't feel like work - in a case like mine, it's actually fun. Then he showed me some of the other work he's done - cornea transplants for people with cataracts covering the entire eye. He has special powers that man, and a very steady hand.

I can now read the teeniest little words on the eye dropper bottle. I've just done some darning and could thread the needle - piece of cake. Long distances are still settling in - there's a haze. But it's early days yet and just another lesson in patience.

The eyes can do a thousand things that the fingers cannot.
- Iranian proverb.

Sanell Aggenbach

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Surely there can be no better balm for the world-weary than a week on the West Coast.

We go at slightly different times every year, but the changes are vast - the flowering plants, the behaviour of animals...

Tortoises busy with their tortoise business. A few lonesome francolins still chirrup, looking for mates. Bulbuls and wattled starlings splashing in the birdbath - sometimes six thick. At dusk - a rim of pale yellow still on the horizon - a large owl swooped low and over us, going who knows where. On a sunny afternoon a pied crow came soaring straight towards me. But then had a change of heart.
The constant honking of the flamingoes - nothing on earth more beautiful than those jesters taking flight.

Strange landscapes we found ourselves in. Glimpses of movement and colour through the reeds.

Growth and gentle decay.