Into the New Year

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Hieronymus Bosch (c.1450-1516), Ship of Fools, fragment of a triptych. Musée de Louvre, Paris.

Dear friends,

Contemplating The Ship of Fools could well serve to alert us to the follies in our own lives if not the world at large at a time when all our good New Year’s resolutions have dulled away.
Bosch’s work speaks to us as freshly as it must have moved people at the turn of the 15th into the 16th century. People then stood with their minds and habits, thoughts, rituals, beliefs, expectations and realisations of life half still enslaved within the feudality of the Middle Ages and halfway into the era of modernity which is our own.

The ship of fools is very much alive in our time, adrift on the ocean of general intemperance, fanaticism, pernicious and evil intents, little fat clowns playing with intercontinental ballistic toys while watching the latest massacres and drownings in high definition.

We all know or feel that our world has come to an end in its present form and that the process of major reforms has already begun. These adjustments will be painful for all of us, in particular the ruling parties, and will invariably be met with subterfuge to derail the process of change.

There is no time for turning back. The time has arrived to be bold and brave. To fight the good fight where it counts: on the battlefield of personal commitment, never giving up on the dream of creating a world for all to thrive in.

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It is a fight worth fighting.

With love to all of you from
Colleen and Walter
Stellenbosch, 10 January 2017

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Happy days – happy souls

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The “Burgerhuis” in Stellenbosch on a Sunday morning.

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A happy soul on Sunday morning in the week before Christmas, unexpectedly behind the walls of the “Burgerhuis”, inviting me to join her which I politely declined but accepting the permission to photograph her. She did not appear to be homeless, maybe resting for the night on her way home.

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Another happy lot on the same Sunday morning in the grounds of the “Burgerhuis”. They do not have homes but they are burgers nonetheless – are they not?!

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Looking for another perspective of the “Kruithuis” (arsenal) I stumbled upon this happy lot with apologies for my trespassing. They happily obliged.

What are happy days?
Days of lightness are happy days.
Lightness of colour in your heart.
Evenweightedness in feel,
of mind and will.

Watching the moon, at dawn, solitary, mid-sky,
I knew myself completely: no part left out. (Shikibu)*

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Happy days are days with summer clouds.

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Pumpkin days are happy days.

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Happy days are knowing you belong.

May your 2016 bring you many happy days of summer clouds and fairy ways.

With love as always
from
Colleen & Walter
Stellenbosch, Sunday 3 January 2016

*Epiphany. In: Catholic Link. Epiphany of the Lord, 3 January 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

A walk through the garden at Babylonstoren

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Babylonstoren with a view of the Simonsberg mountains.

The garden at Babylonstoren is one of our favourite places to be. It is a place of perfect serenity where you can almost see and touch the balance of energies love and respect for the land and the people who work it have created. Dutifully and carefully the garden is tended throughout the year. Smallest details are taken care of. Nature and man appear to be in easy harmony here.

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Preparing the optimal environment for growing Cardoons – “a cross between artichokes and asparagus. Cultivated plants grow up to 2 metres in height. This process involves wrapping the stalks with newspaper and black bags for several weeks, so that when harvested, in late autumn, the stalks are pale green.”

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Cardoons. Source: Christine Ingram with Roz Denny and Katherine Richmond, The Complete Encyclopedia of Vegetables and Vegetarian Cooking. Hermes House 1997, p. 35.

The owners of Babylonstoren, in collaboration with gardeners, workers, chefs are continuously experimenting with introducing new varieties, such as tamarillos (tree tomatoes), tree melons or aubergine and artichoke varieties among others. All plant material is carefully selected and tested first for its suitability for long term cultivation.

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Still in winter dream mode or just resting … they, together with ducks, are part of insect control.

The hedgehog could be seen as a metaphor for the approachability of nature: prickly on the outside with a soft pink underbelly. Treat it with care and respect and it will reward you with its own particular usefulness. All the wonderful lovely fruit the garden will yield in the coming months has the prickly side of many hours of intensive and continuous labour of love.

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Fig trellises. Optimally positioned to catch the light with easy picking as a trade-off.

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Over 9000 plants with a number of varieties are spread all along the pathways bordering the garden.

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Dante and Vergil in the upper world.

We and Marietjie had been invited by Annette and Hermann on this walk through the garden, especially to see the display of Clivias which are now at the height of their flowering season and also for a special treat at “Babel”, Babylonstoren‘s fine restaurant.

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Annette considering the lighter shades of red.

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Clivias are of the Amaryllidaceae family and native to South Africa and Swaziland.They are typically forest undergrowth plants, adapted to low light (with the exception of C. mirabilis from the Western Cape).

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Their common name is Natal lily or Bush lily. Six species of Clivias are identified, all represented here in the Babylonstoren garden.

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Marietjie considering the darker shades of red.

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Clivias and arum lilies alongside a rivulet running through the garden.

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Water lily ponds in front with “waterblommetjies” (Aponogeton distachyos – also: Cape Pond Weed). The Drakenstein mountains in the background.

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The restaurant “Babel”. Marietjie about the restaurant: “… it is such a pleasing visual experience. ‘Eat with your eyes’ is so true. Everything at Babylonstoren just oozes ‘style’ – the one thing that money can’t buy.”

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Aspects of the Manor house.

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Splendid indeed – but what on earth is he thinking —- no-one seems impressed. Well, he’s just shaking his feathers, if you want to know or in Afrikaans: “Hy sleep vlerk”.

Visiting the  garden of Babylonstoren is part of an everlasting love affair with nature in its yielding to our cultivating mind and hands. The hands of many, of those with resources at their disposal willing to share wealth and vision with the many who on their part are lending their strength and passion in the pursuit of a common happiness.
Happiness in seeing nature bloom and blossom, widening the horizon of day to day politics. And be touched by it.
As a start.

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With love as always from
Colleen and Walter
Stellenbosch, 27 September 2015

In my neighbour’s garden

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The neighouring cottage tucked into the fynbos.

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It is autumn now in the Southern parts of Africa, rapidly approaching winter and the proteas are blooming again.

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xxx The little blighter on the right is determined to join the fray.

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Objets trouvés.

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xxx  Skull of a baby seal.

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Aloe flowers about to open.

With love from
Colleen & Walter
Betty’s Bay, Wednesday 15 May 2013

Depression

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The stock market crash of 1929 marked the start of the greatest depression in modern history. (Courtesy of Wikipedia).

What is depression?
Depression is the unexpected – a serious deviation from the expected.
We expect the economy to continue to perform to our advantage.
We expect the weather to fit in with our weekend plans.
We expect people to behave rationally and virtuously.
We expect to wake up and be well.
And all of that at all times is in peril. 

Are we then unfair in our expectations?
The economy has its own rhythm, pulse and psyche.
The weather follows and obeys the planet’s restless issuing of rules.
People virtuous at times and less at others, battle all day long with their own and any other’s rationality.
What is wellness? Waking up and feeding oneself into the day. Where is what? Does anybody care? Do you?

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Having happily (?) wallowed in a muddy depression. A small herd in the Kruger Park on their way – (home?).

We are expecting things to be in ways they cannot be.
Our expectations continuously overshoot their range.
There is a cause for our depression. The deviation from the expected.
Had we but little ambition, had we and held what is and was but ours,
we might escape the curse of restlessness and sorrow.

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Entrance to the DZ, Deutsche Zentralbank (German Central Bank), designed by Frank Gehry. Make of it what you like, but does it not look like a giant octopus- spider, slurping in millions of funds from hapless investors? In all its splendour it has an air of monstrosity, with all the makings of a depressing sight.

A depression is a weather system associated with low pressure. It is a warm front closely followed by a cold front, creating a rapidly changing weather pattern. Then there is the depression you feel when scanning the headlines of newspapers laid out on supermarket shelves. The warm feeling you might have had of late is followed by a cold shiver running down your spine.

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Beautiful and alluring and yet a death trap. The way things operate.

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Red flowering Guernsey Lily (Nerine sarniensis). Amaryllis family. Harold Porter Botanical Garden. Endemic to the Cape; first described on Guernsey Island.

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Out of a crack in sheer rock. (Oxalis family?) Harold Porter Botanical Garden.

What do I do with my depression? Go public? Let people into the recesses of my psyche?
Eat myself silly so others can see what depression is doing to me?
Starve myself to near-death so the world can see how I suffer in silence and yet survive, barely?

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Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), Melencolia I, 1514. Here is man at his most evolved, surrounded by all the symbols of abstract thought and rationality. Yet suspended in despair – having wings but not daring to fly.

Depression is a severe illness.
Depression is not an illness, but a state of mind.
Depression is an exercise in self-absorption.
Depression is the result of chemical imbalances.
Depression is something we all have within us.
Depression is nothing to be afraid of, but be wary.
Depression is not a deviation, but a digression.
Depression is a game, played by some for gain.
Depression is something we all at one time or other have to face.
Depression is a natural and a biblical thing.
Think of how we have been banished from paradise.
Without depression there would be no poetry.
Without depression there would be no music.
Without depression there would be nothing to make us happy.
No films.
No popcorn.
No ice cream.
No science.
No cricket or rugby or any soccer matches.
Depression therefore is a good thing.
It keeps us spinning.
Madly.
It is nothing we asked for.
It is a given.

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Harold Porter Botanical Garden, Betty’s Bay. After recent rains.

A walk in the Harold Porter gardens is such a wonderful relief from worries for a while. The way we see and experience the natural world, does give us comfort to stay the distance.
There is, after all, overwhelming evidence of beauty in our world.

With love as always
Colleen & Walter
Betty’s Bay, Saturday 20 April, 2013

A nostalgic evening in our Dorp Street home

Our daughter Thekla was invited by Retha, tenant at our Dorp Street home, to cook for a secret dinner of about 35 guests. Secret meaning you as a participant of the 2012 Spier Secret Food and Wine Festival were invited to one of the 16 secret venues and you as one of the 16 hosts only knew about the numbers you might expect. We were called in as family, friends and landlords to lend a hand and to bring an additional touch of nostalgia to the occasion. We gladly obliged to help with the preparations and to welcome a jolly crowd of diners in good old Stellenbosch style and tradition – see what Thekla has written about it in her latest Food Blog.

The Victorian houses in Dorp Street – South Africa’s oldest residential street still in existence – hold secrets of their own: artists’ studios in their attics, libraries and enchanting gardens behind their gabled street frontage.

Pierre Henri Wicomb and Leonora Bredekamp – Jazz Duet of note.

It was a nostalgic night for us thinking of the many meals we shared here with family and friends some of whom we can only invite in our memories – especially Dora Steyn, Paul Cillier and now Wolf Amelung.

We salute you all!
Colleen & Walter
Betty’s Bay, Tuesday 6 November 2012

A visit to Babylonstoren

“Babylonstoren” is the name of one of the oldest farms in the Cape. The name tower of Babylon or Babel refers to the ziggurat of Etemenanki  and the photograph below of Bruegel’s conceptualization gives you the ziggurat type mountain side on the farm Babylonstoren.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Tower of Babel, 1563, oil on panel, 114 x155 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

The “ziggurat” mountain on the farm “Babylonstoren”.

However, there is more to it than just the about shape of a hillock. After the Cape had out-run its purpose for the Dutch East India company to simply serve as a revictualing station for their East Indian trade and was eventually “colonized”, farms were established on the land and to run these enterprises Khoikhoi and slave labourers from the East were employed bringing with them a symphony of languages.

Layout of the farm.

Colleen, Rood, Retha and Mia.

Entrance area with the ziggurat mountain in the middle field.

Fish ponds with waterblommetjies (Aponogeton distachyos) – also called Cape pondweed – indigenous Khoikhoi food.

Fingerlunch outside the Conservatory.

The Conservatory …

… made in France.

Alongside the river you walk through a shaded shrubbery housing some nine thousand clivia plants with an amazing range of flower shapes and colours from pale yellow, yellow, to orange and deep red.

The “tower of Babel” in the background.

The homestead.

This was our first visit to Babylonstoren. Thanks, Retha and Rood for your invitation to lunch and Mia for charming companionship. We will come again and spend more time in the gardens and report in more detail.

With love
Colleen & Walter
Betty’s Bay, October 30, 2012