Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Spiderman on Tuesday.

These names by the roadside are now familiar: Keert de Koe, Botterberg, Capaia, Mesech...
Children wait for the school bus. The mist lies in the lowlands. Every morning a little old lady sweeps the dust around the laborer's cottages with a Bluegum branch.
Always, the washing line beckons. On Fridays there are rows of blue overalls, empty arms and legs flapping in the breeze. Today we dressed the shack of a character who, on Monday, will die in a tree-felling accident. There's a dog who lives in a rusty oil barrel and a small boy who never, ever smiles. His name is Marius. God of War. But they call him Janneman.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Half way.

I have come to hate the N7. The desperation, the screaming mad cowboy drivers. Burning cars. Policemen poking around in ditches. Neon paint squiggles marking the scenes of untold horrors.

Then I get to the farm and the knot in my stomach unravels. At 6h30 the sky looks like something from the children's bible. The dogs run up to greet me and the farmer always has a story. Did you know that pigs gestate for exactly 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days? Groot Wit and Landras. You can set your watch by them, he says.
Soon my life will take other turns,
but I'll never forget this place.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

“Love, being in love, isn’t a constant thing. It doesn’t always flow at the same strength. It’s not always like a river in flood. It’s more like the sea. It has tides, it ebbs and flows. The thing is, when love is real, whether it’s ebbing or flowing, it’s always there, it never goes away. And that’s the only proof you can have that it is real, and not just a crush or an infatuation or a passing fancy.” 
Aidan Chambers

Happy Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

More smoke and mirrors.

A week in black and white with a fox called Colour. Blood orange thunderclouds at Fisantekraal. Shepard's warning. Our hero is bitten by a snake. Thank goodness he has a rubber leg. The snake wrangler drinks Oros. The tribe is armed with plastic guns. Stones on the runway. The cobweb machine works. (In Germany it is bigger and better.) Every night, Diane Arbus dreams. Wish on an eyelash, snow in Paris. And my mother strides across the mantlepiece,
nineteen forever.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

She was.

The farm subsides into silence over the week-end. Even the roosters are quiet. I spent the morning dead-heading the roses, immersed in their staggering dark red scent. The animals stopped by in turns to greet me - Collie, the two black Labradors, white footed cat. In the distance the Frenchmen were raking topsoil over the lawn, soft African drumbeats coming from the open truck.

It gave me time to reflect. Everyone I have spoken to has some special memory of Aida, our friend who died on Wednesday. These are just a few of mine:
There were always flowers in the house. If she knew that I was coming for breakfast, there would be an extra bunch waiting by the door.

On the day I took this photo, she led me to her herb garden and gave me a translucent porcelain cup of Bergamot blossom tea. She was that most wonderful combination of things: bright and gentle, yet filled with a matter of fact kind of strength. We went for sushi on a Winter's day and laughed so much we cried. She came to visit me after seeing her doctor and I could see she wasn't feeling great, but she ate a big slice of the cake I had baked and that made me inordinately happy. We shared a love of shoes and buttons, floral fabrics and Rick Stein. There were memorable meals: a Moorish stew of Lamb's neck, fragrant with fresh Turmeric root and Saffron. Fish and Coriander leaves, wrapped in rice paper and fried until crisp. The Chocolate Ganache cake she sent when she couldn't come to my birthday party. Baked by her that afternoon, covered with fresh purple figs.

I woke last night and remembered that I had taken a photo of her, maybe six years ago. She looked sensational - woolen Cossack hat, fur-lined boots, her arms full of chunky bracelets - always, standing on the grassy verge outside the gate on Impala Road.

I wrote to her from Turkey, not expecting a reply, for I knew that she was extremely ill. She wrote back. She wrote: Enjoy Istanbul for me. And she sent me her love.
My heart aches but I am so happy to have known her.

There are 
 by Jac de Villiers.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


From food to love and everything in-between, you shared your wisdom so easily.
I'll miss you.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The birds and the bees.

An unexpected bonus of shooting at a farm: you become involved with the inner workings of the place itself. Yesterday was a big day: it started with the Collie and about eight men rounding up the ewes.

460 of them. The traveling vet set up his ultrasound and spent the best part of the day dividing the ewes into groups: pregnant or not, pregnant with one lamb or twins. The ewes with twins are separated and given extra grazing. The ewes that aren't pregnant will be given one more chance next year and failing that, will be slaughtered.
It seemed like an undignified affair, but hardly a bleat was heard from these docile animals. On his screen, the vet showed me small skulls, tiny rows of ribs. He told me that he would be busy with sheep until the end of March and that he spent the rest of the year working with cows - "a much more complicated business".