For fifteen years I’ve been warning those Aussies that their time will come.
Well, it came. Don’s Tree Felling moved in (onto my neighbour’s property, conveniently for me) and did away with six big Bauhinia trees, the Australian camelfoot – Bauhinia variegata, I think. Don had dropped the biggest, oldest, leaning-est one a few years before, when the neihgbours then, Suboohi and Nasim Choudhry had said Whoa! This thing is threatening us!
My neighbour Phindi was a star – she allowed Don’s team in and let them get on with the job. I had prepped her a month ago that I wanted to drop all the trees that were looming threateningly over her driveway and a corner of her house, and she was all for it.
Down came the trees to a cacophony of sound. For some reason I hadn’t thought they’d be using chainsaws! HATE chainsaws, so maybe its good I didn’t think of that. Aaargh! How can I complain about noise if I’m making it!? Oh, well, one day only and after this its back to me and my manual bowsaw.
They carted off the flotsam and jetsam, all gathered on Phindi’s driveway, poisoned the stumps, left some trunks as hidey holes for snakes, mongooses and lizards, and peace returned; Followed by a bit of genteel sawing and puffing by yours truly, as I cut down a few left-overs, plus a bougainvillea and a bottlebrush with me bowsaw. Once a tree gave suddenly while I was a-pulling and I landed on my back staring at the sky.
Then the celebration! A double celebration: My first house guests – OK, garden guests – since lockdown; and the birth of a new grassland. ‘Cos that’s what’s going to take the place of that corner of jungle.
To make it special I invited hooligans. I had thought we’d have a wee bonfire, which I prepared, full of the late Brazilian bouganvillea; a modest requiem after the banishment of some Aussies and the rebirth of natural grassland. But Louis Bon Phyre had a different level of celebration in mind. And so he got close to the pagan roots of many a Western tradition:
Before they arrived I reminded them that I take our current virus very seriously and insist on masks. The bottlebrush was allowed a last little requiem moment in one of Aitch’s many vases. This one by potter A Kirk.
I forgot to make supper, but we all had a lot of wine, especially Petrea.
Always cook with red wine, taking care not to spill any on the food.
Peel and cut a potato into four; Peel and cut an onion into four; Rotate them in a microwave.
Cut a pork chop into small cubes. Be guided by your superstitions here, use another animal or tofu or soya or kale if you have to, but for best results, stick to what I say: Cut a pork chop into small cubes.
Cubes into a pan with yesterdays pan fat; fry till browning.
Add salt. Gulp some wine.
Add potato and onion and brown. Brown the stuffin the pan, nê.
Add some cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped.
Put a lid on it. I often say that when people are gaan’ing aan like this: Put a lid on it. Another favourite saying when my gast is flabbered: Dis my gat se deksel.
Chop up some spinach and green beans. The spinach I bought off the back of a bakkie downtown. R10 a bunch, dark green, delicious, did wonders for me – whatever dark green leaf vegetables are meant to do for you? It did it for me. Mainly, leaves me (geddit? leaves me . . ) with lots, cos the kids turn up they noses.
Did I mention this is a recipe for one bachelor whose kids would rather die of hunger than eat this stuff?
Steadily add wine and I find it helps to imagine your favourite TV chef while cookin’.
So imagine your favourite chef . . . No, its Nigella.
Which reminds me of the inimitable Barks who every holiday would cackle Haw Haw Haw Haw! After asking the question (again) and providing the answer: Where is Friderichs going these holidays, hey, hey? He’s going to Nigel. Haw Haw Haw Haw!
So Naai-Gella Awesome it is.
Keep lifting the lid and then at the right time toss in the chopped up spinach and green beans, never forgetting to keep steadily adding wine. Careful not to slosh any onto the food.
Add salt and a big knob of butter for the last round. Put a lid on it. The right amount of salt is the amount that makes it taste best. Did I mention this is health food? It is. Mental health.
Then eat it accompanied by sufficient more red wine. I actually licked the plate.
The 1812 overture was belting out in the background with real cannons. I hope they scared the neighbour’s incessantly-barking mongrels.
gaan’ing aan – blah blah; fit a cork
dis my gat se deksel – literally, that’s my arsehole’s lid; blow me down
bakkie – small pickup truck
Other domestic chores included cutting down a big Australian Bottlebrush tree
. . and putting its flowers in one of Aitch’s old vases as a requiem:
What started out as a routine roof inspection has morphed into a general sprucing up at 10 Elston Place. Geoffrey Caruth esq. came over and made some suggestions and we ended up deciding to fix the roof, bargeboards and fascia boards and paint them; fix the windows and paint; replace the old gutters with aluminium gutters; Almost forgotten in the mix was my second main aim: To catch my rainwater; We’ll add a 50 000l tank to catch the rainwater off the garage roof; Oh, and we’ll also add a door to the flatlet; fix a door frame and paint four doors.
Especially paint four doors! I’ve been wanting to paint these doors a proper deep cobalt blue for a long time. A blue to match Aitch’s blue kitchen wall back at River Drive!
I wasn’t brave enough to paint a wall such a blue, but two outside doors was my kick for touch. And the colour blue the doors have been for nine years is fine, but not right; The first blue Geoff showed by painting half one door was way better, but still not quite right.
Then he got it: The right blue. I call it Deep Cobalt Blue, or (as he has traces of Pommy in his veins) British Racing Blue. Above we have the old blue and the better blue. But wait till you see the Right Blue: Deep Cobalt Blue!
. . . to be continued . . .
. . getting closer. I showed Geoffrey a pic of the old 1999 kitchen blue vs the sample. And he came back with the right blue:
I got my blue.
And so we carried on! Now the one cottage wall is being painted. Oy! I said to Geoffroy the Pom GCMG, I still don’t have my water tank! We’re victims of Mission Creep, is all he replied.
The ant lions under the eaves are being disturbed since Jessie moved in to my en-suite bedroom.
Here you can see their pits and a few trails . They make the trails when they emerge to prowl around at night. By day they lurk in their pits in the rain shadow under the wide eaves outside our bedroom windows. Jess now uses their hunting ground as a path between her little porch and our big patio. So they’re probably grumbling a bit.
Meantime I put out a bunch of stuff to be taken away by Electronic Cemetery. PC’s a printer, cables, thin client modules and a bunch of other stuff. They disassemble, remove what they can sell or recycle, separate the throw away bits and generally see that this horrible pollution is disposed of as best as can be.
While loading it up into the back of their two ton truck, the fella pulled down his mask, grinned at me and said in his best sombre undertaker tone: ‘Don’ Worry! We’ll Give Them A Good Burial!’
Jupiter and Saturn below the full moon put on a special show. A whatsapp message from an old schoolfriend sent me outside to take a picture, but the moon was too bright for my camera to deal with. Hence the annotated internet picture.
We’ve been having such beautiful skies – night and day – that I added some recent daytime skies.
. . and some birdbath pics:
and just for good measure, some beaut pics from neighbours in the valley:
Who are you!? What you want!? Be off with you!? Go find your own Sugar Daddy!
These thoughts or something like them wafted through Jessie’s brain as she charged at Tiger and made to push him; he ducked behind his new Mama’s leg, wondering what was up with this fierce child.
We fostered Tiger from six months old to a month past his first birthday. You can imagine the birthday party! Aitch’s first child’s first birthday!
Then he got adopted by Mr and Mrs Buthelezi. She a schoolteacher, he an entrepreneur. His first return to visit us was two or three months later – pre-Jess – and he didn’t know us! When we went to greet him he hid in his new Mom’s arms!
This visit was a lot later and so it was like all new to him again. So the fiercely protective action from Jess musta surprised the poor fella, who name was now Owethu (‘ours’) Buthelezi.
Aitch gave him a gift and that didn’t help either! Where was HER gift!? And just WHO is this intruder again? And why is he in MY house? We called the episode ‘Tiger Enters the Lioness’ Den.’
I would think I’d call an adopted daughter of mine a lovely Zulu name. But Jess arrived as Jessica, two years and two days old and named Jessica by her fifteen year old mother Thembi. Just Jessica. Of course, we couldn’t imagine her as anything but Jess/Jessie/Jessica now! ‘Cept maybe JessiePops, like godmother Dizzi calls her.
Thembi had been checked in to hospital for a five month course of TB treatment and Durban Child Welfare decided Jess had to be fostered. They phoned us and we said Sure! We’d been about four months without a foster kid.
We took her straight to Thembi at King George V or VI Hospital* after checking it was safe to do so. We wanted Jess to see where Thembi was, and Thembi to know Jess was in good hands. We – especially Aitch – visited her often till she was well and discharged.
We met the family that had first rescued Thembi from her fate as a child domestic worker who had been impregnated by her boss. They were South Africans – ‘Indian’, ‘Coloured’ and ‘African’ if you must. This was why Thembi only spoke English to Jess. The lingua franca in her lovely circle of benefactors was English. She was given a corner on the floor in the lounge of a small flat in Melbourne Road, where she could be safe, raise Jess and go out to do whatever work she could find.
Then followed a number of years of Trish raising two ‘children’, little Jess and her tummy mummy teenager Thembi. Aitch was amazing in her support of Thembi and helped her to adulthood and some measure of independence. Literary classes, computer classes, sewing lessons and more were arranged. Hair appointments were made, dentists appointments for significant repair work.
Thembi then met a long-wanted boyfriend who was so good for and to her. Tragically, though, she ended up becoming HIV positive. Trish arranged expert care and a reliable source and clockwork collection of antivirals by meeting with the lady in charge of the HIV / AIDS program at King Edward VIII Hospital. Soon into the relationship, Thembi asked us to adopt Jess. Whattapleasure.
Fortnightly lunches with Thembi were unmissable. Aitch would arrange to meet, pick up Thembi and the three girls would find the shops for Thembi’s needs, and a restaurant for a meal and for Aitch and Thembi to swop news; then Jess and Thembi would chat – just a little at first, but later they would take to giggling together like schoolgirls, discussing the clothes and actions of passersby. Jess still fondly talks about those gossipy times.
A visit was made to Thembi’s family home outside Port Shepstone for her mom and gran – Jess’ gran and great-gran – and the extended family to see how Jessie was doing among the umlungus. Over the years, a sister and the great-grandmother died, coffins and funerals were arranged.
When she moved out to Newlands West, Trish sourced clothes and other articles she could sell on the street and door-to-door.
When Thembi got sicker and weaker she was booked into Addington hospital. Jess wrote her a letter. By now Aitch was not too well herself so I would usually go and deliver the goodies – I remember a cellphone charger, airtime and food goodies being among the things Trish would send Thembi.
Thembi died in Addington. Another coffin and transport. Her brother Dumi and her boyfriend – who were both good to her, as she was to them – took her body back to Port Shepstone.
* Now King Dinuzulu Hospital. Isn’t that a better name for a hospital in KwaZuluNatal? I don’t know anything about either of them, but as an African, Who the Hell is King George!? Now King Dinuzulu, lemme go and look up about him . . .