The feel of summer – an absence of darkness

Betty’s Bay, Tuesday 4 January 2011

The sun has reached its highest peak in the Southern Hemisphere and the hours of sunlight have begun to diminish ever so little. But the summer’s heat is here. Time to open the windows wide and enjoy the warmth which is always tempered by a continuous breeze from the sea.

A friend of ours in Germany comments on the absence of darkness in our pictures of the season, Christmas in particular. Where are the casualties of life? And he gives a picture of what had happened in his immediate surroundings – suicide attempts, a diagnosis of cancer, a broken heart, sadness. What about the dark side of Christmas in your country, he asks. Where are the black people in your representation? It all seems so jolly and happy and light.

He is right of course. Christmas time in Germany, apart from the same kind of commercialization as we have it here, is a time of “Einkehr” – a time of turning inwards – and of course of sentimentalization. Should I tell my friend about our “dark” statistic – casualties on our roads as if we were in a state of civil war? Family dramas with wife and child clobbered to death? Policeman on a shooting spree? Ten people struck by lightning in the Transkei between Christmas and New Year. Children drowning as a result of neglect?

What more? What is the point? Does one have to feel guilty enjoying the sunshine? There is so much more below the surface, people caring for each other, abandoned children taken into families and accepted there as one’s own. Does one have to weigh the one against the other? Our friend’s comment made us a little sad, but we understand – Africa seen from the outside from a perspective of an awareness of rape and pillage of its people must disturb a sensitive soul. But should we not soldier on and see the beautiful things in life as well as the ones that make us feel wretched?

Summer is here and we are enjoying it. And Colleen has finished another commisssion for friends in Sweden – we couriered the painting to them today.

While we were staying with Karin in Montagu we had an unexpected visit from a lovely family we got to know through one of their daughters while she was doing her practical year as part of her medical studies. The family of seven are on a cruise and when their ship docked in Cape Town they took a bus and drove all the way to Montagu to see us. What a wonderful New Year’s delight! And on top, Colleen was offered a commission for another family portrait – she had done one before for them –  this time of the family grown now from five to eleven! No mean task to look forward to.

Much love for now,

Colleen & Walter

Betty’s Bay, 4 January 2011


The Myth of the Winemaker

Visiting with Marco and Caitlin on a farm in the Voor-Paardeberg district, just about equidistant from Paarl, Wellington, Malmesbury and Durbanville, where they have hired an old farmhouse. From their bedroom and stoep they have a view of Table Mountain in the distance. This is a shot from our bedroom at 5:30 in the morning. Just above the roof of the old farm building in front the camera catches a glimps of Table Mountain. The eye could see more though, something of captivating beauty:

A teleshot might show what the eye had caught.

Marco – one of the new generation breed of whizz kids – has been given the task of chief viticulturist at a major winery in the area. Talking wine with Marco is always great fun. We discussed with him a recent article in Time about South African vineyards and a new approach to wine making around Riebeek Kasteel and Marco agreed wholeheartedly that terroir is the main ingredient. If the terroir is right, Marco says, you can make a good wine from a badly managed vineyard, but if the terroir is bad, the best managed vineyard will produce only wine of disputable quality. The myth of the winemaker came into existence as a result of bad farming whereupon the magician winemaker was called in to wave his magic wand in the cellar. These wines rarely outlast their first flush of youth, something that is often the trouble with South African wines – they must be drunk early – unless the grapes were grown in terroir suited to the variety – then a few classics can be achieved and enjoyed the world over.

It is all in the berry, Marco says. And what a wonderful image that is – to see the berry as a perfect tiny universe growing in its preferred terroir – from where you as a spectator are enjoying the sun, the warmth, the wind and the view of the countryside. To see the berry as something equally joyful and willing to ripen to its potential and to share its happiness with you and you with it once it has been turned into wine. Terroir is the key for humans as well, for they will thrive best in places suited to our talents. Such is the grape, Marco’s berry!

On our way onwards we took a photograph of one of the many horse breeding places in the area – happy animals in an appropriate environment.

Closing in on the mountain background.

Driving through the du Toit Kloof mountain range toward Worcester.

We wish you all a very happy, joyful transition into the New Year!

May it be blessed for all of us.

Montagu/Western Cape, 31 December 2010

Colleen & Walter

A Christmas Carol

Carol singing at Christmas time in Europe is such a wonderful tradition which goes hand in hand with drifting snowflakes, early darkening afternoons, Christmas markets and brightly lit streets and people drifting into churches looking to re-live the feeling of Christmas they remember to have had when they were children. And that is good and right – to remember and hold dear a time of innocence and beauty. The integrity of childhood that is what we are celebrating at Christmas.

Olivia getting ready for Christmas Dinner.

Nikki and Bob decorating the tree. The “tree” is a magnificent metal spiral emulating the shape of a well-grown Christmas tree. It is freshly painted every year and differently adorned. The angels Nikki had especially made to order by street vendors – done from beaded steel wire.

Katie mounting the traditional angel at the top.


Thekla singing Christmas Carols.

The Christmas tradition in the German way – where the main celebration is done on the eve of the 24th – is kept and held high in Nikki and Bob’s family.

All the best for now until New Year.
Colleen & Walter, Hout Bay, 26th December 2010

Kite surfers

We had been to see Glenda, Jason, Tyla and Cailyn’s new home at Atlantic Beach Golf Estate west of Cape Town – an upmarket new housing and golfing estate planned to fit esthetically and environmentally soundly into the sensitive West Coast dune vegetation. Living relatively near to a major city and yet breathing fresh sea air and being within earshot of the ocean with its outstretched lonely beaches.



On our way home along the seaboard the sky was filled with colourful surfing kites. We stopped and photographed the scene. The result, however, was disappointing. One pic I thought had a bit of potential. During manipulation it began to look like a painting. I will show you the process. At first the insignificant looking pic which in no way represents what the eye could see and the skin could feel:

The picture size setting was at 12,2 MB which should provide some crop definition:

Further cropping and manipulations resulted in:

Now, if you enlarge the pic a couple of steps you will see the impressionist effect come into view more strikingly. What do you think?

Here are a few more conventional shots and crops.:

A lovely outing. Thanks Glenda, thanks Jason.

Walter & Colleen, 20 Dec 2010

Sweet Dreams – a home in Hout Bay

Nikki and Bob’s home in Hout Bay where we are staying with Michaelene & Gary for the next while – one aspect of it. It is a home of sumptuous proportions on three levels. This is what you see on entering level two – what would normally be the ground floor which here is substantially raised for the sake of having a good view of the bay – Hout Bay, Afrikaans for “bay of wood” or timber which in the old days of the 17th, 18th and 19th century served to repair ships damaged on their journey to or from the East. The area is still well wooded today.

Such are the days at Christmas time. Grounded. Earthed. At home. See little Ike fly. The little sprog can already swim like a dolphin. Africans are traditionally or culturally shy of water or of swimming. Little Ike is adopted by Nikki and Bob and has been given lesson from early on. And there he goes – throwing himself into it. What a lovely sight.Here he is in a somewhat more sombre mood – in his terrible fours:

Mom and Dad are as strict with him as with their other three. No exceptions because he is of a darker shade. One time Max, his half brother came home from school and said to his mother: Do you know that Ike is brown? Sure I do – and that was all of it.

Still very serious, a little more relaxed though:

Up in the attic, on the third level, is our abode for the next ten days or so. It is a wonderfully spacious place which Nikki uses for her rehabilitation classes. Now it is ours and we are enjoying it.
A view from the attic across the space below:

This is our space and it is good and we love it.

Seamus, Veroniqe, Catherine, Patrick and their uncle James were visiting. Lovely kids, engaging, enterprising.

Two cousins: Max and Patrick.

Uncle and niece in conversation: James and Michaelene:

End of another day in Africa. Cheerio for now.

Colleen & Walter  ___________________________________________

Cerebrally Palsied

The wind is hassling us with speeds of 40 to 45 kms/h drying the soil out; the plants are stressing. So are the humans. The air is charged and tempers flare up in a moment, but also die down just as easily

Michaelene and Gary, our cerebrally palsied niece and her boyfriend were stuck on the airport access road in Johannesburg for hours yesterday and missed their flight to Cape Town.

Michaelene in Hout Bay

It is not difficult to realize the depth and extent of the emotional devastation if things turn belly up for them. As if you were on the high seas and your boat capzises and you are about to drown. That is their life. Their life being a disaster, always being on the brink of disaster. And all the joy being with them comes from the happiness they experience and are sharing with you when things roll on okay.

Being with the two is alway such fun. You realize how privileged we all are with our brain and hands and arms intact and how often we forget to enjoy the fulfillment of small tasks like opening a bottle of coke or taking a photograph with a point and shoot camera. Gary does that with such dedication, delicacy and slow moving precision and to watch him in that slow motion brings about a realization of what we all miss in our fast moving ways.

Gary in Hout Bay

They are safe now in our hands in Bob and Nikki’s house in Hout Bay.-

So much for now with love

Walter & Colleen


Christmas 2010

Adam and Tex are with us today. It’s always fun to have them around with their fresh and exciting ideas and their little love squabbles.

Wrapping up and preparing the house in Betties to make it good for Dirki, Luke and Katy to enjoy who will be visiting from the middle of December for a month while we together with Michaelene and Gary will be staying with Nikki, Bob and their gang in Hout Bay to celebrate Christmas. We are very much looking forward to all the excitement.

In the meantime news of snow and sub-zero temperatures reach us from family and friends in Völklingen, Berlin, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Sweden. Here young Leo, born two years ago in the summer heat of Africa, marvels at his first experience of snow.

Colleen has finished another painting, commissioned by our Swedish friends:

Christmas cards this year with one of Colleen’s icons will have to be sent electronically this year which is not how we normally like to do it.

Christmas message 2010

Cheerio for now with good blessings for the season!

Hermanus morning

Left home for the coastal town of Hermanus to have breakfast at the Saturday morning Waldorf organic market. Lots of freshest veggies; all kinds of breads, cheeses, honey, soaps, flowers, plants, pottery, and among others solid brass replicas of maritime instruments such as an astrolabe. Nice, jolly people all around make it a pleasure to browse through the stalls and sit down at the clean-scrubbed pine tables for a mug of coffee, scrambled eggs on rye bread; German sausages with fried onions and sauerkraut squeezed between a Portuguese roll; pancakes with sugar, cinnamon and a squirt of lemon juice; pumkin fritters and other lovely things. Interesting people , moneyed people walking about, supporting the cause, loosely but well clad, understated, with casual elegance. Black African people do not come here except as accompanying child minders. It’s not their thing.

Meeting at the Waldorf organic market

Hermanus is also jokingly known as “Stellenbosch-by-the sea” because of its many retired Stellenbosch University professors. The climate is good. Extensive walkways along Walker Bay keep you fit and from June, July onwards up to Oktober, November the bay is filled with whales to stay here with their calves and to find new mates before migrating south again. They are the main tourist attraction during that time.

Section of the Hermanus waterfront

We walked along the waterfront, visited the roofed market, watched the Marimba players perform and met some interesting people and listened to their stories.

Marimba players. Lovely soothing melodious sounds. Often used in church to accompany choir singing. They were selling their music as CDs at Rand 100 each.
On most markets you will find many more wild animals on display than there would be in their natural habitat.
Fitting ankle beads.
A Zimbabwean immigrant family: he works as a driver for a recycling company, she teaches at a school and their daughter looks after one of the stalls in the market.
Roy, waiter at a waterfront restaurant, another immigrant from Zimbabwe.
Nadja, a German student, voluntary worker at Camphill, an organization caring for the handicapped.
Two people, very happy to be in South Africa – the one driven out by a ruthless dictator, the other one happy to give love and care to people in need and keen to be in a world very different from her own home country.

Zimbabweans shine in a very special way. They are content in what they do here, they are friendly, smiling, polite and well educated. Unfortunately for Zimbabwe, they are emigrating in droves to neighbouring countries – Zimbabwe’s loss is our win. Their education is of a high standard, their work ethic outstanding and they are not corrupted. No wonder that our local people are not too keen to have to compete with them.

Nadja, the student from Germany, doesn’t want to leave again. She does not look German at all – Egyptian, her father is Egyptian.

Isn’t it lovely to have such a wonderful mix of people in this country?

Adieu for now.

The Red Cliff

Karin did not like the film. Too many battle scenes. Why would the Chinese allow and sponsor such a film? Well, after the devastation of the so-called cultural revolution, after the taste of Mao had turned sour in their mouths, it was time to re-discover the past. And there is enough political and cultural ideology embedded in the film for political correctness. Furthermore, we are showing the world, Holly- and Bollywood what the Chinese film industry is capable of. I enjoyed the film from beginning to end. It’s an operatic masterpiece. Very satisfying for the eye and lovely little cameos. Letting the cup of tea overflow: You are so full of yourself that nothing else has space in it. Or: will you be our ally? Instead of answering in so many words they sit down to play a many-stringed instrument. And their question and answers are exchanged through music.

Letting our own personal histories run like sand through our fingers. Considering the quality of the sand. Considering the element of time while watching the breakers roll onto the beach churning the sand. Every grain of sand has its own span of time assigned to it. There is so much of it. Of grains of sand of time. When I am overflowing with emotion, am I emptying myself to make room for firmer, more settled thoughts?

Empfindungen. Die Betrachtung der Zeit. Betrachtung der Wogen wie sie an den Strand rollen und den Sand zermalen. Oder dem Wind zuhören. An manchen Tagen lässt er den Dünensand singen. Ist Zeit dann auch Musik? Hat Zeit Klang und Farbe? Zeit des Windes. Und Zeit selbst? Was für eine Zeit hat sie? Was ist über folgendes Bonmot zu denken: Gott hat den Europäern die Uhr gegeben und den Afrikanern die Zeit.