Summertime – at long last!

What a wonderful weekend we have had, busy but so very enjoyable. Summertime – at long last! Michaelene, Colleen’s goddaughter and her boyfriend Gary, both cerebral palsied, flying in from Jo’burg for their annual holiday with us and Thekla and Adam giving us a midday treat at Casparus.

Strand Beach.

This stretch of beach will soon be inundated with holiday makers from up-country.
A power boat surf riding competition under way.
Some turmoil or turbulence of kinds?
Thekla and Adam giving us a treat at Casparus in Stellenbosch.
Michaelene and Gary in Hermanus. How much joy and happiness these two so severely afflicted people can spread around them, is truly amazing.

Thanks, Tex, thanks Adam for spoiling us so very handsomely. And thanks Michaelene and Gary for sharing your joy with us.

With love as always from
Colleen & Walter
Betty’s Bay, Tuesday 6 Dec 2011

West Coast Rock Lobster

It is open season now until December 31 and people are diving for West Coast Rock Lobster, generally referred to as “crayfish”. We also name them cockroaches of the sea – to give us an excuse – kind of vermin whooshing through the kelp beds – and we need not feel too guilty while being part of the destruction of our marine resources. But while they are supposed to be rich in good cholesterol and rich in other brain stimulating nutrients (see the good home-made mayo which should go with it, might not be so good for your system and in the end shorten your life expectancy, thereby ensuring the survival of the species Jasus lalandii.

Here is the recipe for Colleen’s home-made mayonnaise which our good friend Theodorus introduced us to and as we found out our French friends are using as well.

Home-made mayonnaise for about 4-6 people

You need a hand-held blender and a tallish container large enough to accomodate the blender and ingredients. The secret is to be quick with it – seconds only.

1 large egg
2/3 cup oil of choice (neutral flavour)
1/3 cup of good strong tasting virgin olive oil
1 large clove of garlic, sliced
2/3 tsp medium curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp strong mustard
1/2 tsp Tabasco

Put the egg, the oil and all ingredients into the tall upright container, put the blender to the bottom, switch on, hold for 3 secs, draw upwards slowly, not longer than 5 secs – et voilà – there is your very own home-made mayo and it tastes just so good!

Cooked crayfish. Colleen's home-made mayo in the background.

We are expecting Freda, her sister Marina and husband John for supper to celebrate a day of friendship and the launch of Freda’s exciting new blog-site: – a richly embedded blogsite “For lovers of Cape Food, Wine & Lifestyle. In search of the interesting and the enchanting.”

Congratulation, Freda – you are amazing! Walter is doing his type of staple “Ratatouille” – a veggie pot slowly and briefly cooked in an iron casserole. Nothing like you see in the film “Ratatouille” where the critic swoons over the dish that instantly recalls the days of his boyhood – such a wonderfully charming scene! Anyway – Walter’s dish is equally straight from the heart, or so he thinks. Colleen always gives him the highest praise which makes his heart smile again.
Colleen in the meantime is engaged in a task of challenging proportions: a family portrait for friends in Germany. The size of her canvas does give an impression of the proportions. It will take her the best part of four months to finish – more or less. And she loves this kind of challenge.

The challenge.
Our "Adventskranz" Colleen made for the first of Advent - last Sunday.

Our guests are late. Time to finish the blog.
With love as always!
Colleen & Walter
Betty’s Bay, Friday, 2nd December 2011

Backstage – on stage – she’s got the rhythm

Backstage - the tension rising. Our granddaughter Olivia with Nikki preparing. Sarah and daughter Gaia sharing in the fun on the left.

Backstage at the Kronendaal Primary School in Hout Bay where the Audrey Anderson School of Modern Ballet had its annual presentation – beginners to advanced. The School Hall at Kronendaal was filled with moms and dads, grannys and whoever else had an interest in seeing the girls perform. We were allowed backstage to capture the mood.

The perfection of beauty is part of the dance.
Elements of the dance coming together.
The composition of the dance starts with the finest details.
Becoming sleek and stylized.
Grouping together – standing apart. We know why Degas was enchanted.
The composition. Pas de Deux.
Slipping into the dance. All mind. All set.
Conscious of their prettiness – a little shy – keen to perform. 
The stage. Lights. Curtain. Music. The perfomance.
In full swing.
Precocious talent.
Sugar plum fairies becoming wild swans? Some of them.
She's got rhythm.
Talent - balance - dedication - getting to know yourself.
Dance, disciplined movement, experiencing the joy of music and engaging with the audience.

Dance is to bring about perfection. In movement. In rhythm. In body control. Feel and confidence of self. Working through hours of pain and frustration. In the end there is pleasure and beauty the dancer portrays and the audience perceives. The applause then at the end is what the audience freely gives and the performer graciously receives. Dance then is more than a display. It is communicating yourself to the world. In moments of greatness the magic will be so profound that tears can flow!

Thanks, Nikki, for inviting us; thanks Audrey for letting us happily snap away; thanks to all the talents for not minding the intrusion and thank you, Olivia, for your own very special magic.

With love as always
Colleen & Walter
Betty’s Bay, Wednesday Nov 23, 2011

The European crisis – where are we in all of this?

A friend writes to us: “Nice to have you back in the country. It was great to follow you through Europe, and now to see you back in the Cape. Thanks for blogging us about the small things and take away a bit of the scary big ones world wide.”
What are those scary big ones world wide?
The poaching of Rhino horns? 1 kg of Rhino horn sells for up to 100.000 US Dollars in the East. That is scary.
The disappearance of a stack of portable ground-to-air missiles from Gaddafi’s compound?
That too is scary.
But what he really wants to say is: world-wide we are running out of credit.
Worldwide we are consuming more than we have in the bank.
And the banks are running out of collateral.
And the states will eventually not be able to honour their long-term debentures.
That is scary.
What does it all mean?
What are we to make of this?
Will it affect us, you and me?
It all depends. Look around you at what you have.
We might have to give up things we used to take for granted.
We might have to go back to the so-called drawing board and start generating ideas. Access the powers of the mind.
Drive ourselves instead of being driven – in a metaphorical as much as a literal sense.
Imagine a world different from what it appears to be now.
Look at all our dependencies.
Try to imagine how to reduce their number.
Reducing too the number of threats we are told to be concerned with.
Forget about the environment.
Forget about Green.
The destruction of the rain forest.
Forget about the poaching of abalone on the Cape Coast.
Let them rape the coast.
Let them eradicate abalone.
Let them eradicate Rhinos. We can easily live without them.
Their loss means nothing in comparison to what might come our way.
What, what – I hear you say.
Don’t panic.

"Louis" - a wild and solitary chacma baboon roaming in our area making use of resources at his disposal. Never aggressive, eventually, being found poisoned by humans ... you see, there is a process you cannot halt ... Louis' death in Betty's Bay, the massacres of Sarajewo, Burundi, Katyn in Poland, the Spanish in the Americas, the slaughter of the population of Merv in Persia by the Mongols (over a million) ... shall we go on? No, of course not. It's enough and good or not so good. Life will go on. We do need to remember though. Nothing ever will remain the same.

Turn away from all the hullaballoo the media are constantly regurgitating.
There is a dependency you do not want to be part of.
Look into your own backyard.
Start living sensibly.
Be good in your own small way.
Look at what you eat.
Look at dependencies there.
Cut them out.
And more of it.
You begin to see the picture I am painting.
Nothing scary.
Let it all go past you, in a Tai Chi way – take a step back, hold it and then: by gently repulsing you are deflecting it, letting it pass.
That’s more or less the idea of confronting the European crisis: not much of a help, is it.
Well, let’s put it this way: be prepared instead of being scared.
Life on earth will go on. As before. There is no end in site.
Our local padre had a nice way of putting it to his congregation: bet with me that the world will not end on the 12 of December 2012: if it does not end, you will take me to the Spur (a local chain of restaurants) the next day; if it does, I will take you.

Lovely to see. So lovely to share the environment with her - but, in the end, we might not be able to procure the funds to keep up this dependency. A great sadness. It is a privilege we hold for a time. And privileges are sure to cease.

Cheers for now. With more encouraging thoughts next time.

And with love as always
Colleen & Walter
Betty’s Bay, Thursday Nov 17, 2011

A magical place, always – the Harold Porter National Botanical Garden

We are happy to be back after a three long months’ journey into Europe and are enjoying the simple things in life again – a long sleep after a night’s deluge, waking up to a cool but bright blue sunny sky, brunch with home-baked bread, champignons fried in butter with garlic and smoked paprika, braised tomatoes topped with herbs from our early summer garden and a drive out to the Botanical Garden to refresh our senses.
Stepping into the Harold Porter National Botanical Garden at any time of any day is always a joy. It is so beautifully and unobtrusively laid out against the mountains that one is hardly aware of the many hands continuously at work to bring nature and culture together to form a harmonious entity. And seeing that our own garden has some elements of this type of naturalness we jokingly treat the Harold Porter National Botanical Garden as an extension of our own. Others surely must have similar sentiments. It is a sign of a well designed garden that you immediately feel at home in it as if you had planned it this way yourself.

Entrance to the Garden.
The deep blue sky of the day reflected in this pond at the entrance to the garden.
You are invited, drawn into the kloof.
Further and further, away ...
and you are held, to view, to ponder ...
the mountains ... are they really blue ... they are, it's really true ...
and other colours to consider ...
so blue the day ... how do the flowers know which dress to wear ... they know, they do ...
And you. Sitting by the brook. Time does stay still at times, does not as always flow away. Sitting by the brook. By and by ... here. Being. Aware.

What very happy day we’ve had.

With love
from Colleen & Walter
Betty’s Bay, Sunday 13 Nov 2011

A country baptism

Percy, June, baby Tyron and a cousin arriving for the country-side baptism at Sutherland Trust Farm, Elgin/Western Cape.

Percy and June had asked us to be present at the baptism of their first-born son to be christened in the community hall on the Sutherland Trust Farm in Elgin, a major farming community in the Western Cape.

On the road to the baptism. Elgin is famous for its roses and one of the richest farming areas in the country.
The child's great-grandmother on the mother's side. Proudly.
June's aunt - MC of the proceedings. Guiding, admonishing, whipping up the spirit.
Members of the congregation.
Starting the jive.
The jive in full swing - with Pastor and Deacon joining in.
The congregation of "The Holy Soul Crusade" gets quite a talking to with much participation in the affirmative and open hearted laughter - "Praise the Lord - yeah!" and similar ways of vocally agreeing. Next to Colleen the baby's grandmother.
A reading from the Old Testament, followed by a sermon.
Colleen and Walter were present as honorary God-grandparents. The god-parents are on the right.

The child is baptized with olive oil.
A spirited little fellow.

We enjoyed this lively event of a charismatic baptism in the rural area of the Western Cape. It involves a lot of interactive responses, clapping, singing, jiving, ex tempore prayers – a lively praise and worship service. These people over the last 300 years have been part of the development of agriculture throughout the Cape. Their ancestry is mixed with indigenous Khoi San blood, mainly on the maternal side, shared with other influences from Africa, the Far East and Europe. They are a hardy, humble people, happy and proud, full of wit and humour. Their home language is Afrikaans and as such they are very part of the Afrikaner culture. A strange fashion among coloured people is to have the front teeth drawn early in life. It is an aesthetic thing and considered attractive.

Percy and his father have been helping us around the house in Betty’s Bay for many years. They are adept at plumbing, building, painting and electrical work and over the years a friendship has developed between us. Percy and June were married the year before last and have recently become the proud owners of a small house – just in time for the arrival of their offspring – which altogether made this christening such a happy occasion.

With all our blessings for the welfare of this lovely boy –

Colleen & Walter
Betty’s Bay, November 9, 2011

Pióbesi Torinese – a visit in Piedmont

Villa of Barbara and Filippo Gautier di Confiengo in Pióbesi.

We were invited by the family of Barbara and Filippo Gautier di Confiengo to spend a weekend with them together with Dirki and Katie in their home in Piedmont. Dirki had formed a close friendship with their son Carlo. Last year, in a freak accident Carlo fell to his death. Since then Dirki has become “big brother” to Carlo’s four lovely sisters.

Dirki and Carlo's youngest sister Sophie.
Carlo's second sister Maria or "Mimi" as she is affectionately called. Mimi speaks seven languages fluently - Italian, of course, Polish which is her mother's language, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and German and is studying Philosophy at Torino University. She is just lovely and completely unassuming, cooking and caring for us on the day of our arrival.

Filippo took us under his wing: leading us to the grand market on the outskirts of Torino and later in the day to San Martino Alfieri (Asti) for a tour of the Marchesi Alfieri Wine Estate.

The daily market on the outskirts of Torino. Filippo in the checkered jacket.
Freshest of carp.
With an early autumn chill in the air we had to retreat to a pub to warm up with an espresso.

We collected cheeses, artichokes, mussels, tomatoes, herbs and whatnots and Katie took charge of it all to relieve Mimi and her boyfriend Marco who had been spoiling us since our arrival while Mama Barbara was away in Warsaw for the eldest daughter Anna’s graduation. Congratulations, Anna!

Tim and Luke our grandchildren in playful combat with Sophie and Mimi.
Food beautifully prepared by Katie and Dirki graced the table.
Half-way between Asti and Alba - the partially parched countryside of San Martino Alfieri.
The Alfieri family crest.
Three of the Marchesi Alfieri's range of noble red wines from Barbera, Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir grapes. The Alfieri Estate with nearly 24 hectares of cultivated vineyards, a castle and guest house has been fully restored by the three Alfieri sisters, friends of Filippo, for whom he organized an auction of their wines at Christie's in 2008.
Outbuilding at the gateway to the Alfieri Estate.
Cellar view.
The historical Alfieri homestead or castle, now a beautiful guest house.
A Piedmontese landscape on the way to San Martini Alfieri (Asti).

With no rain for last 3 months, the land was bone dry with a taste of dust in the air. Our visit was short, just the weekend and when we left there was promise of rain to refresh the land.
We would like to visit again and stay for a longer time to emerse ourselves in the food and wine culture Piedmont is famous for and for the revival of traditional approaches to food what became the Slow Food Revolution – the appreciation of slow as opposed to fast food. It was promoted here and made famous by Carlo Petrini and others in the town of Bra, a ten minute’s drive from Piobesi.
A layer of sadness was always present, but the spirit of hospitality prevailed and we felt at home in its embrace.
Thank you, Barbara, Filippo, Maria, Marco, Sophie, Katie and Dirki!

With love as always,
Colleen & Walter
Betty’s Bay, Thursday Nov 3, 2011

Ethics – the attainment of self-knowledge – virtue and happiness

Early Arab depiction of Aristotle. Ethics as a subject begins with Aristotle.

Socrates (469 BC to 399 BC) maintained that evil or bad actions are the result of ignorance. Through knowledge you would be able to attain self-knowledge and with that your actions, by the very nature of such knowledge, would be virtuous and and provide you with happiness.

Quite a nice idea, but we also know too well that it does’nt work that way. We all want to be happy, we think we would like to be virtuous and would like to know if that would lead to happiness.
So-called “primitive” societies – the last ones today fighting for their survival in the Amazon rain forest – have knowledge, gained and transmitted from one generation to the next and might achieve self-knowledge, virtue and happiness all at the same time. Their example shows us how tenuous such knowledge is but we know too that such societies have never been all happy. The closest a society has come to more than just a fair degree of happiness we are told were the Hawaiian communities at the time of their being discovered by European explorers.

James Cook (1728-1779) who on his third travel around the world was killed by Hawaiians, the same people who's peace he had enjoyed and disturbed years earlier. Ever since the South Sea Islands embodied our vision of paradise lost.
Gaugin’s dreamscape – Tahiti.
Paul Gaugin (1848-1903), Ta Matete - The Marketplace. Study on carton. 1892. Privately owned.

If we follow Socrates for a moment longer, can we then say that the evil or bad actions by commercial banks and governments are the result of ignorance? That they have no knowledge of what they are doing and no self-knowledge as institutions and as such cannot provide happiness?
Much of what is written today leads one to that conclusion – what, then, are we as a world community to do?

Here are a few thoughts filtered out as a result of what we have been reading in the last while.

+ people in power have abandoned all care about ethics
+ our knowledge of the world is fragmented
+ self-knowledge is nowhere publicly referred to
+ happiness is advertised to be had for a price

* happiness – there is no shortcut to it
* self-knowledge – there is no shortcut to it either
* the fragmentation of our knowledge is an awesome challenge
* ethics – personal or religious, can only be found in you and me

The lack of ethics or rather the lack of reference to it, in the public sphere puzzled us during our stay in Europe. In Africa things are not directly comparable – Africa still is a wild place. Ethics emerged from Greece. Something the Greeks themselves should be thinking about in dealing with their crisis these days and support their state instead of complaining – while stashing away their private wealth.
Yet, if we try to gather a global picture we cannot but look to ourselves, individually. In our fractured world ethics can only begin and be maintained at home: with you and me.

Aristotle. Louvre

With love as always
Walter & Colleen
Antibes – Côtes d’Azur/France
Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mandagout – a mountain community in the Cévennes

We were invited again this year by friends of Colleen to their home in the Cévennes – to Richard and Arlette. First we met up with Arlette’s sister Eliane who lives in Montpellier and then proceeded for an hour and a half’s drive in a north-westerly direction into the mountain ranges of the Cévennes.
Eliane and Arlette (Baccuet) were born to French Missionaries in Lesotho at the beginning of WW II. They still speak fluent Sesotho!! Colleen became very fond of them while they nursed together at Groote Schuur in the early 60’s. They returned to France in the mid 60’s and two years ago, after 47 years they reconnected and the friendship taken up where it left off. Arlette married Richard Dahan, a protestant Pastor, still very active as co-ordinator of prison chaplains of the greater Montpellier area. We are delighted and privileged to be enjoying this contact.

The community of Mandagout is composed of a number of hamlets dotted along the valley and surrounding mountain sides.

A valley dotted with hamlets forming the community of Mandagout.

The Cévennes together with the “Causses” – i. e. a group of lime stone plateaus in the Massif Central – have recently been declared a World Cultural Heritage Site.
Though thinly populated there are still agriculturalists keeping up the tradition of farming with goats, Reinette apples, chestnuts and sweet white onions.
Our hosts treated us with a tian of vegetables from their own garden and a most delicious traditional onion soup.

Arlette, Richard and Eliane.
A tian - a dish of baked vegetables - "tian" being an old Provençal word for frying pan - here with Arlette's and Richard's own home grown vegetables interspersed with goat's cheese.
Exceptionally warm October weather. Colleen with Arlette (r.) and Eliane.
Upright stone houses - typical for the area.

The area is rich in history. According to local legends the Goths founded Mandagout. Traces of Roman road works are still distinguishable along paths in the forest. Benedictines lived here. The religious wars of the 17th century, the French revolution and the Résistance against the occupying forces during the Second World War left scars well documented and vividly remembered today. Once prosperous, in the 19th century the area became impoverished with the loss of the local silk industry due to industrialization and many people were forced to leave. Today with an average of 24 people per square kilometer the area still is sparsely populated but a growing trend is noticeable of people apart from holidaying returning permanently to this part of the world.

The cromlech of Perrarines outside the village of Blandas. A prehistoric circle of stones - on the Causses de Blandas - remains of an astro(nom)(log)ical tool. Archaeologists tend to agree on dating such neolithic sites to at least 6000 years B.C. and before. Walking around this site - a depression with hills surrounding it on all sides - a natural amphitheatre - it is easy for the mind to sense that time deep within ourselves.
On the left the center stone of the circle.
Cirque de Navacelles and gorge of the river Vis - the biggest canyon in Europe and one of the prime tourist destinations in the South of France. Being a calcified sea it is classified as a historical monument. We walked down to the river bed and visited the site of ancient mills.
Moulins de la Foux - Mills at the source of the river Vis - These mills or part of them were built in around 900 and have operated since then until the late 19th century. The renovations are still in progress. The river emerges here out of the lime stone rocks.

Life here, remote and harsh as it may be is becoming increasingly attractive to people who have grown weary of consumerism and are seeking distance to city noise and pollution – not to opt or drop out but to rekindle some kind of personal inner joy that many seem to have lost in the mazes of our shopping malls.

On our return from this outing the moon rose magnificently over the hills of the Mandagout valley.
A quick shot through the open car window - Mandagout castle which has changed hands recently and is being renovated to become a guest house ...

Thank you, Richard, Arlette and Eliane for opening your home and hearts to us. We are looking forward to your visiting us in South Africa.

With love as always
Colleen & Walter
Antibes, Côtes d’Azur/France
Friday October 14, 2011