Thursday, 27 May 2010

'I love those cow bums'

Ronaldo and M's kind gift of a pair of cow pajamas (which we have since learnt, thanks to a sharp-eyed salma reader, are actually dalmation pajamas, but because I like cows so very much, we're sticking with that) have done very good service. Although the pics below, of Johann and Tanya wearing them, are posed, don't think for a second that they just put on the jarmies for a photo-op - quite to the contrary, they both wore them very happily for hours on a recent Silly Evening.

Silly Evenings happen frequently in this valley (or in my house, anyway), and often start as Silly Afternoons (or even Silly Mornings). This latest one began when Johann arrived as I was about to have my morning shower (around 11.30am - well, that's still morning). 'I love those cow bums!' he said of my ample butt in my cow pajamas, and, after a couple of glasses of fortifying red, insisted I lend him my PJs for a while.

The following 12 or so hours are a bit blurry, but they involved quite a bit of coming and going, probably most interestingly the arrival of the British-Consul-in-Cape-Town, a delicious man with an equally delicious husband. They'd come out to the valley for a quiet country weekend, and had been given (probably ill-advisedly) my number to phone for advice on where to go and what to see. By the time they contacted me, a Silly Afternoon on my verandah was well underway, and I told them they'd best pop around and get input from the impromptu gathering of valley folk.

To their immense credit, they didn't turn a hair when they arrived to find a posse of people well into their cups, taking turns wearing a pair of cow pajamas, doing each other's hair, arguing fit to bust and occasionally going into fits of hysteria.

A bit later they went off for a meal at a local restaurant while Lukas created kitchen magic by whipping up a quick supper for the rest of us from the half-tin of smoked sardines and bottle of Thai sweet chilli sauce he found in my fridge.

And they won our everlasting admiration a few hours later when we discovered we'd run entirely out of red wine, and I SMSd them to ask them to hotfoot it straight back to my place and bring some wine with them - and they did! And because this request came late on a Saturday night, they'd had to employ spy tactics at the restaurant at which they'd gone to dine in order to smuggle out two (opened, as is the law) bottles of red. What astonishingly resourceful fellows they are!

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Wednesday, 26 May 2010

The Road Angels are on duty

South Africa is known for its lawlessness on the roads. While ordinary law-abiding citizens are expected to (and do!) queue for hours and pay repeatedly for our driver’s licences and roadworthy certificates, the vast majority of drivers speed along the country’s highways and byways in vehicles held together with spit and string, without licences, arrogantly breaking all known traffic laws and continually putting the lives of their fellow road-users at risk.

So two recent road experiences, on consecutive days, made me realise that the Road Angels are hovering close by.

The first one was when my daughter and I, returning from a weekend at my fab flat in Yzerfontein, hit a pothole, which decimated the wheel rim and flattened the tyre. (For non South Africans, potholes are endemic in this country.) We pulled over, then opened the boot and emptied it of our weekend baggage to get at the spare tyre. I wasn’t looking forward to the slog of changing a tyre on the roadside, so you can imagine my delight when a bakkie containing two men pulled up behind us. They hopped out, greeted us cheerily, and quickly and efficiently changed the tyre. Five minutes later, with an equally cheery bye-bye, they hopped back in their little bakkie, then (get this) turned around and drove away.

The fact that they drove off in the direction from which they’d come, so clearly hadn’t just happened upon us on their way to some other destination, made us draw the obvious conclusion that they were sent by the Road Angels.

The second incident, which happened yesterday, was in its own way even more delicious. This time, my daughter was at the wheel. She’s a newly licensed driver and is still gaining confidence, and we were on a long blind rise, in a 60kph zone, with a double white line demarcating the middle of the road (ie, no overtaking allowed from either side).

Suddenly a large truck roared up behind us and, in true South African style, the driver left a matter of a few centimetres between his vehicle and ours. He was so close that in the rearview mirror you could see the whites of his eyes.

My daughter didn’t want to pull over onto the hard shoulder (a peculiarly South African habit, apparently) to let the bully past, as the blind rise prevented her from seeing what was ahead, and hitting a pedestrian or a cyclist would obviously have ruined our (and their) day. So she stuck her ground and kept to the speed limit, while the truck driver revved impatiently behind her, keeping dangerously close and mouthing obscenities.

Finally (and, again, in true South African style), the truck driver, ignoring both the blind rise and the double white line, simply swerved out to try to overtake. We were cresting the rise as he did so, and – surprise, surprise! – an oncoming car suddenly appeared on the other side of the road. My daughter swerved towards the hard shoulder; the truck driver panicked and pulled back in, narrowly avoiding colliding with both us and the oncoming car.

We were shaken and furious. It’s fuckwits like these who cause the carnage that happens on South African roads on a daily basis, and it often appears that traffic authorities either just can’t or won’t do anything about it.


The next minute, a Metro police van came racing up from behind, siren blaring and lights flashing. Oh joy! The police had been travelling behind the bullying truck driver, who was clearly so intent on getting past us that he hadn’t bothered to look in his rearview mirror!

We slowed down to give the Metro guys a huge thumbs-up, and watched, whooping with delight, while he pulled the truck over.

Thanks, Road Angels! You’re doing a great job!

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Wednesday, 5 May 2010

For sale: my fab flat in Yzerfontein

I don’t really want to sell my Yzer flat. I bought it when it was brand-spanking new (no-one else had ever lived in it!) and it has given me several years of joy and delight. It’s spacious and clean and airy and, in summer, you can leave the big glass sliding verandah doors open and fall asleep to the shushing of the sea. It’s on the top floor of a smallish two-storey block in a large, well-maintained development that’s always surprisingly peaceful. It’s got a small private garden that the dogs can sniff around in, and my neighbours (only two of them permanent residents) are polite and keep gratifyingly to themselves.

Yzerfontein is a small fishing village on the West Coast, about an hour’s drive from Cape Town (and from Riebeek Kasteel, where I live). It’s old – there are several archaeological sites in the vicinity; its jetty dates back to the time when the harbour was used by whalers; and there are two lime kilns (both historical monuments) from when mussel shells were fired to turn into quicklime to use in the local construction. Nowadays, it’s sparsely populated by fishermen, artists and retirees, and walking (with dogs, usually) is the main pastime here – with good reason, as its two beaches are breathtakingly beautiful and there are several greenbelts and nature reserves in the immediate area.

The West Coast itself has a unique beauty – very wild and sometimes windswept, it’s unlike any other place on the planet; it has an unusually high density of endemic plants, and metamorphoses completely in spring, when huge swathes of different-coloured wildflowers blossom.

Yzerfontein’s main beach has Blue Flag status in summer, which means, basically, that it’s good enough for international tourists (although even at the height of summer, the beach is so big that you never feel hemmed in by people). Blue Flag beaches have to meet certain standards for water quality, amenities such as toilets and showers, and the like. This beach, which fronts onto a big, shallow, user-friendly bay, is frequented by paddlers, swimmers, surfers, kite-surfers, body-surfers, dog-walkers, volley-ballers and picnickers.

The walk from my flat to the main beach is about 15 minutes along a coastal path, past huge rock outcrops that are home to sprawling families of dassies that sun themselves on the rocks and give weird, screechy alarm-calls as you approach; and also a breeding colony of endangered African Black Oystercatchers. There are lots of other birds too – plenty of seagulls (of course) and sandpipers on the beaches, and, in summer, the occasional flamingo or pelican on the salt pans just over the dunes from the main beach.

The beach on the other side of the Yzer peninsula (the sea here is unsuitable for swimming but is used by surfers) is about 20 minutes’ walk from my flat along a cliffside coastal path which, in spring, comes alive with endemic wildflowers. In early spring you can also sometimes see whales from here (and we have!). The beach itself, which fronts the upmarket Pearl Bay development, is also huge and wild and beautiful, and from it you can see Table Mountain on a clear day. There’s a small island just off this beach (accessible by foot when the tide is low) with benches and pathways and two nicely private little tidal pools that you can swim in if you’re brave enough (the water is cold!).

Yzerfontein harbour is home to several seal pods and used by boat-fishermen – both those who live in Yzer permanently and who sell fresh fish from the fish market on the town’s outskirts, and recreational fishermen, who go out to catch crayfish or angle from the rocks (or, for that matter, the beach). (My one moan is the occasional jetskiier – they’re allowed to launch from the harbour and ride around in a delineated ocean area, and they have, once or twice, completely ruined my Sunday-morning bliss with their stupid, noisy sport. I have no idea why such hooligans are allowed in this pristine and peaceful little place.)

The weather in Yzer in summer is sublime. A constant cool onshore breeze means that bright, sunny days can be enjoyed to their fullest – there’s nothing I love more than leaving the valley in midsummer, when even breathing is difficult due to the oppressive heat, and arriving in Yzer, where I can sit in pleasant warmth on my lovely big verandah and watch the comings and goings on the main beach (sometimes through my telescope, which I also use to look at the moon when it’s full - it rises directly in front of my flat). Summer evenings are just pleasantly cool – no kicking off the duvet in sweaty desperation and no mosquitoes! Heaven!

Winters are almost European in their density – huge, dramatic fog banks roll in from the sea, the breakers roll furiously onto the beaches, and fossicking (while warmly wrapped up and wearing wellies) becomes the pastime of choice. (One of the things I would suggest to anyone who buys my flat would be to install a Jetmaster or similar fireplace.)

There aren’t many amenities in Yzer – a couple of nice small restaurants (several of which do a great weekend breakfast), a café and a usuriously expensive little supermarket. (I always do my grocery-shopping in a bigger town on the way there, to avoid being ripped off.)

So if it’s so damned fantastic, you must be saying by now, why am I selling it? Good question, and I’m glad you asked it. Basically, I’m just not getting enough use out of it. I don’t want to rent it out monthly because then I can’t use it when I want to, and I haven’t fixed it up elegantly enough to rent it out at a gigantic fee to seasonal tourists. It’s been an excellent investment and I’ve loved every minute of it, but it’s time to move on to other things.

Interested? Go here for more details and a slide-show.

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You think you’ve got it bad?

Fmylife is a fabulous site for a rainy day. It was introduced to me by my teenagers (see, they are good for something!).

Here's a selection of some of today’s posts.

* Today, while searching a dating site, I came across an account of girl with the same name and info as myself. She also had the same picture. The girl was me. My life is so loveless I signed up for the same dating site twice without realising it. FML

* Today, I realised the reason I’ve been jobless for over a year is because I’ve been writing the wrong phone number on every application I’ve filled out. FML

* Today, I talked to my friend about the idea of friends with benefits. After a long discussion about the ‘rules’ of the game and what's allowed and what isn't, I asked how he would feel about doing it with me. He asked how that would be beneficial for him. FML

* Today, I returned from a week off school due to flu. Not only did no one text or call me to see where I was, apparently everyone thought I had killed myself. FML

* Today, my girlfriend found my secret panty stash. Now she thinks I'm cheating on her with another girl, but I'm not. They're mine. FML

* Today, I looked in my wallet and discovered that over $200 was missing. I told my parents and found out that they have been taking money from my wallet for a year to pay for gas. FML

* Today, while riding a dirtbike, it caught a rut and went into a wheelie. I then veered into a fence. It was electrified. FML

* Today, I looked out of my window to see that one of my plastic geese had fallen over. I went to put it back up and quickly discovered that the goose wasn’t plastic. FML

* Today, I found out via text message that my son has had sex more times than me. He's 15. I haven't had sex since he was born. FML

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The unadulterated drivel of some DVDs: ‘Camille’

One thing you’ll find in almost all small towns is a DVD-rental store. Ours went through several owners, with concomitant choice in stock, ranging from a dogged adherence to strictly mainstream movies, through a distinct leaning towards cheesy Kung-Fu and soft porn, to, ultimately, a trickle of buy-ins of straight-to-DVD trash when times got really tight.

Our store has now closed down (surprise, surprise!), so we have to trek to the next town to rent our DVDs – because, when you’re an hour’s drive from the nearest cinema, you take your entertainment options where you can find them.

This only remaining DVD store in the valley is, not to put too fine a word on it, pathetic. It gets in about three new movies a month, and only ever one copy of each.* These are booked out by entertainment-hungry villagers for the next three weeks, and usually by the time you get to see them, they’re so well used that they stick halfway through.

Which is what I sincerely wish had happened to the DVD I rented last night. It really burns my arse that good money is spent on making drivel like this, and that we unwitting consumers then fork out yet more good money to see such rubbish. If they make it onto the rental shelf at all, these DVDs should come with an advisory: ‘Do not waste your time watching this unless your only alternative is eating your own eyeballs.’

Camille (I'm posting the DVD cover here so you'll recognise it and know to avoid it as if your very life depended on it) stars Sienna Miller and James Franco, both goodlooking people (although I never realised Sienna had so many teeth), and also acting veterans Scott Glen and David Carradine. Really, I thought, how bad could it be?

Bad. Not even so bad it’s good. Just very, very bad.

I won’t bother going into the ridiculously stupid plot (full of holes big enough to drive a bus through), the contrived symbolism (Niagara Falls as the dividing line between life & death/captivity & freedom, a decaying blue horse, a cowboy lacking a sense of smell, aaargghghg), the embarrassing script, the obvious and boring musical score, the sheer unbelievability of the characters… I’ll leave that to these critics:

‘The ending of Camille requires a viewer absolutely incapable of cynicism, otherwise the resolution could potentially cave in a skull. [Director] Mackenzie goes for the gold here with a flying blue horse, poetic turns of fate, and a baffling afterlife visitation that apparently the living and the dead can witness. It’s meant to be cute and harmless, preying on romantics, but it registers more as complete absurdity, minus the soothing touch of a capable filmmaker.’ (Brian Orndorf on DVDtalk)

‘While all of this may sound like the makings of a black comedy, it in fact is all played quite seriously. There is no explanation for Camille’s return from death, and once this occurs, the movie becomes steeped in morbid and rather unsettling territory that verges on necrophilia, yet the filmmakers treat it with a sense of preciousness that is totally without irony.’ (Felix Gonzalez Jnr on DVDreview)

Camille [is] a disastrously misguided tragicomedy that offers a whole host of horrible characters set in a wholly absurd storyline.’ (Christopher Null on

And yet, proving that one man’s dead meat is another’s food of love, this is what Louise Keller had to say about Camille on Urban Cinefile: ‘A surprisingly touching black comedy with a twist, this love story starts in earnest after the bride is dead. … But being dead is not enough reason to stop the honeymoon and it’s credit to Sienna Miller and James Franco in the central roles to keep the premise credible as long as it does. The first hour in which we get an insight into the volatile relationship between Camille and Silas holds well but there’s a dip in last half hour, when the film struggles before it finds its resolution. … It’s a road movie, a black comedy and a romance. It’s unusual alright and I like the poetic ending which arrives unexpectedly, just when you wonder how this crazy premise can possibly end.’

From the weasley wording of Louise’s review, I have to assume she’s a personal friend of the director. And if she isn’t, she should be doubly ashamed of herself. It’s people like her that allow this utter tosh to clutter up the already meagrely stocked shelves of some small-town DVD-rental stores.

* It is really astonishing to me that in a valley of about 5 000 people, many of them too poor to have satellite TV but most of them with a DVD player, the DVD-rental business should fare so badly – especially considering that in our nearest ‘big’ town, about 20km away, there are three DVD-rental stores, each with a fast turnover of new movies (and always several copies of each), that do a roaring trade. Why??

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Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Monday, 3 May 2010

The terribleness of Muriel's dog

The Monster Baby, as anyone who reads this blog often will know, is (like her owner) a dog of severe terribleness. I thought Muriel was exaggerating slightly when she described how the dog ate an entire couch.

She was not. I spent a night at Muriel's this weekend, on the occasion of the Olive Festival, and I was so astounded by what I saw that I took a photograph to show you the actual extent of the mayhem. What is more, Muriel is not in the slightest bit annoyed by what her dog has done to a perfectly good couch: in fact, like an indulgent aunt, she's fondly amused by this dervish of a dog and plans (now here is optimism for you) to have the couch 'refurbished' at some stage.

This only confirms my view that my old friend is now officially batty. Do you know that she also requires virtually no sleep, and can be found cheerfully packing dishwashers and clearing ashtrays at seven in the morning, after a night of carousing that would flatten a horse?  I can't help being envious: I crashed at around midnight, and it was only the next morning that I found that I had missed most of the jollifications, which included a late-night raid on a local restaurant, and the arrival of more interesting people.  I did, though, get a chance to meet a handful of Muriel's wonderful, clever friends, and to eat half a bucket of her delicious vegetarian bobotie (as soon as she sends me the recipe, I'll post the recipe on my food blog).

I'm so glad I live in the Cape now and can visit my friend more often.  We have the best time, Mur and I.

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