Showing posts from September, 2010

meeting free zone

I've had a week without meetings and it has been total bliss.

Not driving into Cape Town means that I may not have seen views like this...

and, even in a meeting free week, there hasn't even been time for this...

But I have managed to get to a stage where the work left to do is not quite so overwhelming as it was, and that can only be a good thing.

wooden structures

We may have lost the lapa ( I wrote about it here and here ) and the palm trees were cut down, but we have been left with a wonderful treasure trove of wood that Greg has been using to build all sorts of cool structures in our garden.

Next to the washing line is the beginning of a wall that Greg is building with the palm tree pieces. I love the way it curves around the avocado tree that I grew from a pip. I think it is important that you notice that tree. It is one of my biggest achievements ... my thumbs are decidedly not green but somehow this tree has survived a couple of transplants and a scorching Moorreesburg summer and is still growing.

Next are a screen that Greg built in front of the pool pump and the walls he built to hide the door of the outside toilet. It would have originally been the only toilet in the house, but thankfully we have one inside now. I'm always a bit wary of all the spiders who live out there, and I always hated it if the door was left open so that …

Square insanity

It is official.

I have lost my head.

I am knitting a gazillion squares in blues and greens and greys and purples, to make a blanket for our bed.
I started a similar project about a year ago but then decided it was a stupid idea and gave away all the squares I had made.

But this time I am only using colours in the palette I have chosen (the other one was too full of bright reds and yellows) so I think it has a better chance of success.

And I am using left over wool from other projects, some that other people have given me, so there is a memory in each one which is nice.

Anyone want to add a square or two, or send me some wool? They'd be greatly appreciated!

balm for my soul

It is probably time for a change of pace ... a move from what some would say are the "socialist delusions" of my last post.
But I am still harping on in my mind about what it means to be a South African, now at this moment, in this place. So, be warned,  I'll probably come back to it again.

In the meantime, here is one of the songs that sings to my African soul. Thanks to Helen Brain (whose blog is listed in my blog list) for reminding me.

Now... tell me that doesn't soothe all your troubles away?

heritage day

Yesterday was Heritage Day in South Africa.

It is a day where we are intended to celebrate our individual and common heritage, and while I think it is a great idea (public holidays are always a great idea!) I must admit that it doesn't quite work for me in the South Africa of 2010, where bigotry and suspicion of "the other" are more common that a pride in a common heritage.

Many of the people I know identify most strongly with their tribe. Others define themselves by their language group, and I can understand that. My literary heritage is almost all English. I love so much about England: the weather, the landscape, the architecture, the history (which I know as well as South African history).
But, that said, I am not British and aren't likely to ever get a British passport.

Many of the things that traditionally (and very one-dimensionally) define a South African don't resonate with me. I don't watch rugby or cricket, don't drink beer, very seldom eat braa…

living the quiet life

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands... 1 Thessalonians 4:11

I love that scripture. For me, it embodies the kind of life I would love to live.

But it remains an ideal.

The environment where I live and work is quiet, and most mornings I am woken by the sound of birdsong. That's just before some idiot, somewhere in this town lets his damn car alarm off, for at least 1/2 an hour every morning at 6am. I keep planning to drive around and find him, but that means actually getting up and dressed before 6am, which is seriously unlikely to ever happen.

Mind your own business.... hmmm. Sounds good. But what happens when you are a journalist and "your own business" is the business of others? I prefer to interpret this as "don't gossip" which is generally much easier for me to live by.

I wonder if working with your hands includes working on the computer, because that seems to be all the handwork I have time to do a…

Judging is a no-no

This post is quite difficult to write, because I don't quite know how to express what I am feeling.

I want to tell you about the man who joined our congregation at church this Sunday, but the more I think about it, the more I get myself tied into knots about how best to describe the experience of meeting him.

Nono is a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo (now there is a misnomer!). He has left his wife and 11 year old daughter behind in the Congo (not the DRC) and has come to South Africa to see if he can start a new life, one with more stability, and he plans to send for his family as soon as he is settled.

He is in Moorreesburg at the moment because the N7 highway that passes our town is being repaired and he is working with the road team. I'm not sure what it is he is doing, but I hope he is one of the guys who is waving a flag to warn the traffic rather than one of the people working with hot tar or the strange fabric stuff that they seem to be sticking over the …

passing time

I woke up today to the realisation that in less than two months we will be in Italy, on our holiday to soak in the art and culture of a country which has filled my dreams ever since my brother went there when I was about 12.

(It is worth noting, though, that many countries fill my dreams... Russia, Morocco, Alaska (yes, I know, not a country), Patagonia ...)

And now I am in that strange limbo of not quite looking forward to the trip yet, because all the things that are still to be done before we go are filling my mind.

Life would be so much easier if it didn't involve working for a living.

This rather spendid figure is part of a monument in Torino that I saw when I was there with the World Federation of Science Journalists earlier this year.

Most of our time was spent working and getting to know what we had agreed to do for the next two years, so there was only one evening set aside for a bit of sightseeing.

There was time for a group picture, though getting us together was a bit l…

standing room only

When I was a little girl, I was a sci fi freak. I read anything and everything I could get my hands on, and some of the stories I read then have remained with me ever since.

I was so convinced that the things I read about would be reality by the time I grew up that I sometimes feel an almost disconnected feeling ... like I am one of the survivors of some planetary disaster, and have memories of what the world used to be like.

I thought that we would have space travel for everybody, not just the super rich. In fact, I fully expected to be living on another planet.

I thought we would have instant access portals that we would step into if we wanted to get from one place to another. Kind of "beam me up Scotty" without the need for Scotty. A bit like the flues in Harry Potter, I suppose. 

I certainly didn't think that I'd still be here, feet mostly on the ground, looking into a future of standing-room only aeroplanes.

These pictures are of Italian company Aviointeriors&#…

just breathe...

On days like this, it is a good idea to take the time to breathe and appreciate the beauty that surrounds me.

And to remember that there are sometimes surprises in the most mundane of occurances.

This orchid is a Cattleyas. It was named in 1824 after William Cattley, a London plant importer. He had been intrigued by the packaging material that had been used for some other plants he had imported from South America. He decided to try to grow it, and this, the "corsage orchid" was the result.

The last day of the palms

So, how about this. Two posts in as many days after a hiatus of how long?

Is it symbolic that on the day that I woke up at 2.30am to get to the airport and go to Joburg to not get my Nigerian visa, our five seventy year old palm trees were cut down?

One of the trees had begun to lean a little alarmingly. You can see it on the left of the three trees in front of the house.

You know how it is... we had a couple of vague discussions about whether the palm had moved, and the feeling of disquiet grew into a certainty and a conviction that we would have to do something about it.

Then our neighbours put up one of those exceptionally ugly vibracrete walls, (you can see it on the left of our gate in the second pic, and yes I know it doesn't look so bad in that picture).

Where we live, vibracrete walls are described as "mooi netjies" which in theory means "nice and neat" but actually means "ugly and devoid of character".

The inordinate pride that he obviously felt…

hanging around

I spent yesterday hanging on a wall in a hotel room in Abuja, Nigeria (remembering, I hope, not to pick my nose or do anything else that shouldn't be done in public). And after a quick dash into town to interview someone on the totally scintillating topic of medical aid tarrif increases, I expect to do the same thing tomorrow.

This week was one that I have been looking forward to for a long time. I was lucky enough to be selected as one of five mentors for science journalists in English-speaking Africa as part of the World Federation of Science Journalists SjCOOP programme. This week we were to get the chance to meet face to face with the mentees that we will be working with for the next two years.

Sadly, for me, that didn't happen. Its a long story, the ending of which is best explained by Extranjera here. She was an island of sanity in the Nigerian consulate in Johannesburg where I spent one of the longest and most frustrating days of my life. Sadly the public face of Nigeri…