Archive for December, 2012

23 Dec 2012

Prynnsberg Estate 1881, the gathering

1 Comment South africa

They arrived in groups; first the Lloyds and the Scholtzes, then Al and his entourage. Mighty fine vehicle, Nissan Micra, the height of style and class. Then came the Kellys. They moved en-masse. The gentle clink of ice against aluminium tumblers, gin and tonic, yin and yang, under the mighty rock, watching the sunset, pink clouds, lightning bolts piercing the horizon. Then more lounging back at the house on the long veranda overlooking the lawns, awaiting the dinner bell.

Clang, clang, the dinner bell rang. Al and entourage raced for a spot at the long dinner table. Candles and petals and fine silverware. Cloth napkins folded in glasses. The scramble for food. Multiple conversations. Red wine. Pudding.




After dinner, after the maddening rush, hands across stomachs, groaning, sated, there was another rush to the bath house. Hot water filled the four claw foot baths, steam clouds rose to the skylight. Naked bodies under candlelight. Soaking, soaking, soaking — then off to bed.

In the morning, more of the same. Breakfast fit for kings outside on the veranda. Then lounging, reading, snoozing, while the children played and dogs mooched lazily. Cups of tea and rusks. That newfangled coffee contraption.

Long walks down to inspect the polo field, admire the horses and take in the views. Afternoons in the billiard room, the green baize caught in the sunlight. A quick dip in the pond which had become a pool, or was it the other way around — pour me another G&T will you?

The late arrivals, the Hooles, anyone would think they had come by horse and carriage. Everyone hid behind doors and in cupboards, except the servants who provided foil for our deception, and we welcomed the Hooles with much fanfare.

Thunderstorms, rain, hail, sunshine — it was one of those weeks where we had it all.

The womenfolk chatted, flitting from topic to topic, without pause for breath or interruption, seamlessly carrying on from where they left off seven years ago, while the men, gentlemen that they were, nodded and tried to keep pace, but we're always several conversations behind the thread. They huddled together for solidarity.

One night we fired up the talking pictures, MOVIES I think they are called (silly idea, it will never take on) and projected onto the large flat-faced rock. We sat outside under blankets huddled close, under the stars and watched and listened, amazed.

And then as soon as it all began, it was over — even Gatsby would have been proud.




17 Dec 2012

Sticky sweet tale

1 Comment South africa

We left Bethlehem like four wise men, bearing Boerewors, Biltong, Koeksusters and Gin (gifts for our stomachs). Whoever had the bright idea to let Alice carry the Koeksusters ought to be shot! She took one look at the long and knotted sticky sweet syrupy pastries and in her delirious state dived in mistaking them for long lost relatives. We drove onwards yelling at Alice don't touch anything and then left her in the car to crystallise while we visited Lionsrock Sanctuary for abused animals.

We watched a harrowing video showing lions being kept in deplorable conditions in closed down zoos, circuses, or abandoned as undesirable pets in eastern-bloc countries — maltreated, malnourished and extremely upsetting to watch. We then watched the rescue effort to recover these animals and bring them to Lionsrock. Lastly, we went on a game drive and later a walk on an elevated platform walk above the lions, where we observed them feeding and lazing contentedly in the sun. The sanctuary also houses abused leopards, other cat species and even bizarrely a couple of tigers. It was great to see them looking so healthy although I suspect they may have simply traded one circus for a slightly larger cleaner healthier better equipped circus where they are still the subject of spectacle.




When we returned to the car Alice had devoured all the Koeksusters and emphatically denied anything was wrong, or in fact that there were ever any Koeksusters in the first place. We must be imagining it, maybe we left them in Bethlehem she said. It was only when we arrived at Golden Gate National Park and realised she was stuck to the seat, that she finally fessed up. Silly girl!

We spent two days in Golden Gate National Park; fending off Baboons trying to climb through the windows of our cottage, listening to the birds chirp, watching the sunset as it snaked its way around the tops of the mountains, eating our Boerewors and Biltong, drinking our G&Ts and hiking in the mountains … absolutely amazing. I'll let the photos tell the story.




14 Dec 2012

Squelch, fart, pop

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We are staying in a nice B&B in Bethlehem, South Africa (kind of seemed the right place to be at this time of year), the birds are chirping, Gillian has arrived and I was thinking back to my last weekend up at Robert's place “Canny Dale” in England's Lakes district. I am still trying to get the dried-up caked-on mud out of my coat. I had to be rescued a couple of times on our walks, slurped up in mud puddles while Paul and Robert were constantly ooh-aahing the views. I have just seen the photos and realised what I was missing! Wow.


Canny Dale


By the end of the second day I had swollen up so much Paul mistook me for the knitted hot water bottle cover Robert had made us so we didn't freeze to death. I am not sure he will be forgiven for this.



Then on Monday morning, squeezed dry, Dudley (the dog) mistook me for a stick and I vaguely remember bounding down a hill, teeth in my ass, peering over the edge, looking down at one of the lakes and I too was ooh-aahing … before I finally passed out.



11 Dec 2012

Let’s talk about the weather

1 Comment United Kingdom

There's such a thing as too much of a good thing – sun, and with it warmth. It gets tedious after a while; the same routine, the vibrant colours, the open spaces, cycling along the coastal paths, moonlit evening walks, the gorgeous fishing ports, the nocturnal lifestyle, and even Spanish food and wine.

After a while the desire for change is so strong: to desaturate, freeze at the extremities, cram for public transport and vie for footpath space — it is blatantly obvious the only place to go is London.

By the time we got off the Tube it was 4 pm and London was cast in darkness. It was a deep gloomy grey, and the cars and buses already had their headlights on. Never mind, we walked into a coffee shop where the people inside had peeled off outer layers of clothing and were seated with large cups of coffee cradled in their hands for warmth. I watched while the colour gradually returned to their faces. After a while the artificial heat became stifling. I listened to the conversations which flowed through chattering teeth in any number of languages. Occasionally I heard English and eavesdropped.

Not so nice out?

Can you believe this weather?

Cold init?

Might get some rain.

Bit of frost about.

Paul's hands had finally warmed. He donned his jacket and we made for the door. Midway out, in the antechamber, we met a man on his way in who helpfully and politely told us it was a bit nippy outside. It was tempting to say Really, I hadn't noticed, or Is it not like this every year, at this time of year since the dawning of man? But no, a sort of English politeness overcame Paul and he looked out into the greyness, as if suddenly discovering something and turned to the man and said Yes, I think we might even get a bit of frost tonight.

PS: There's a lot to talk about in London, but please don't get me started on the weather.


No more fun - it's time to leave Mallorca


Besides Mama turtle reckons it's time we went


Welcome to London, where the temperature outside is a balmy 3 degrees


04 Dec 2012

Home is where the heart is

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We met at the agreed car rental place where we had rented a vehicle with Penelope and Xavier I have changed their names because it is only fair. We proceeded to drive off in the direction of Formentor, Mallorca's northernmost point.. When we got there we had to brace ourselves. It was freezing and blowing strongly. I had to hang to Paul, who was in turn clutching on to a rock wall to avoid being blown over the edge. It was a long sheer drop straight down and I mean ninety degrees. It was both terrifying and magnificent.

We continued on, driving the narrow mountainous roads between Formentor and Port Sóller (yes, the place with the slow tram) and for a while Penelope was at the wheel or at least I wish she was at the wheel. When she spoke she would often remove both hands inattentively and when they returned to the wheel she would snatch it nervously with a jerk and send the car slightly off course. Paul noticed this too and politely tried to tell her about BAD drivers in an ever so subtle way, by telling her a story about the time he and Gillian were in a car in Poland with an atrocious driver and ended up ploughing into the back of an ambulance. Like water off a ducks back! Her hands came off the wheel again and again, and right about the time we were negotiating a particularly hairy section of mountain, she told us a story — as if to up the storytelling stakes — of how last year she was technically dead, found slumped in her car. In the hospital her heart had to be started several times, her body temperature lowered to check for brain damage, but she survived and with the aid of modern science and a tiniest of batteries, here she was driving us around on the nastiest of roads, her hands constantly slipping from the wheel, all the while Paul and I sinking lower and lower into the back seat — but we survived!!



Port Sóller was a welcome sight. Relatively flat, car free and undistracted, we found a sunny spot outside at a restaurant with no inside tables. When the sun was out it was beautiful, but when it dropped behind the clouds the temperature dropped to about five degrees. From our vantage point we could watch the slow tram coming and going and secretly I wished we had taken it instead of renting the car. We all ordered large plates of sardines which each came with a complimentary cat, sitting by our sides, eyeing our plates attentively for the duration of the meal.



Afterwards we visited Deià — more mountainous roads — and admired the views. With the sun rapidly seting behind the mountains we returned to Palma in the dark of night. Palma had transformed itself into a spectacle of light in preparation for Christmas and was looking particularly radiant. It felt good to be home.