Looking back to look forward

There is something about looking back to make one realise how far one has come.  I did this for a different reason in May when I realised that we’d been doing Sunday Suppers @ The Sandbag House for two years.

Two years ago, I was in a very different space. Yes, I was living inMcGregor, but that’s not what I mean.  At the time, I had not long turned my back on a world that had been my professional life – in one iteration or other – for nearly thirty years.  I wrote about this here which was the start of a different journey on a relatively new and novel platform: Steemit is both a block chain and a social network.  One can invest fiat – as one might in Bitcoin – and one can invest by “working” or “mining” the block chain to earn Steem and Steem Based Dollars.  The platform can best be described as a mengelmoes (mixture) of Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

At the same time, I started to germinate an idea for a business, the seed for which had been sown some years previously, but had been ignored except for taking on an aligned project from an earstwhile friend.  I have been in business with friends before and the friendships have happily weathered inevitable storms.  In this case, I learned, to the detriment of my soul, that a longstanding connection, rekindled via social media networks, does not necessarily translate into a business relationship;  the chasm between the apparent values reflected in social media posts and how business was conducted, plumbed the depths.

McGregor’s snowy embrace during the winter of my discontent

Never, in my entire professional life, for as long as I had been self-employed or a sub-contractor, had I ever been so rudely addressed, mistrusted or micro-managed.  Prior to being self-employed, every job, even my first, required me to not just use my initiative, but to work independently and manage myself. Actually, in my first job, I ended up leading a small team – at the ripe old age of twenty-two.  My judgement was trusted;  if I screwed up, I said so, and dealt with the consequences.  Usually, all involved learned lessons, and yes, sometimes, mistakes happen – we are all human.   As they say, shit happens.

That this went down when I was feeling particularly vulnerable, and because of the tenuous personal relationship, is probably what made the experience all the more devastating.

Surviving the dark

After moving to McGregor, and partly because of moving to McGregor, I became more active on Facebook:  for sharing our journey with the dearest who were no longer near.  At the same time, I began posting photos of my cooking, and as I explain here, folk wanted recipes.  But when the proverbial hit the fan, the inspiration to write went with it.

“Steeming” or stifling

I’d been lured to Steemit by two things:  the prospect of being able to blog on a new platform and earn something – I’ve long wanted to generate an income from writing – and also in the hopes of finding interesting and well-crafted posts to read.  This had been another of the joyous discoveries of blogging – a new community of writers and thinkers who encouraged discussion and engagement.  Joining Steemit, I was under no illusion about bullies and trolls – I’d seen that play out before and written about it. In those early Steemit days, I didn’t even manage to scratch the surface.  The platform is inhospitable for other than geeks who understand a bit of coding;  it  was is difficult to navigate without help.  I was apalled at the drivel that found its way on to the “trending” page.  I didn’t understand the block chain and found the documentation difficult to digest:  I’m not technically minded at all.  It took me almost a day to do a post that on the WordPress platform would have taken a few hours (give or take…).

I look back at that first post which was not my best work, and recognise now that I’m a more seasoned Steemian, that it had been picked out by one of the most prestigious curators on the platform.  The notion of curation was foreign.  It was something one did for an exhibition.  I’ve learned a lot since then.

I’m digressing, but suffice it to say that the environment was so hostile and foreign that for the balance of 2017, I only wrote seven more posts.  The only one of any significance (to me) was one in which I recognise that I was beginning to heal. That healing was, in no large part thanks to this village and my circle of friends.  I also received support from unexpected places and in ways I didn’t expect:  being introduced to a new web-building platform on which I could create (relatively easily) my new business site, and literally being given the logo design for the new business.  Talk about gifts that keep on giving.

That was another reason for the long leave of absence from Steemit, punctuated by the festive season, so that it was only in February 2018 that I started writing again.  Something had shifted.  I’m not sure, what, and that post is not just about food, but included memories of a seminal day in my life as a young South African.

Things had changed

Then followed another 285 posts.  That might make me appear to have been prolific.  I was not.  I discovered applications that allow one to post to Steemit without having to code.  Two, in particular, really work(ed) for me:  Steempress that integrates with WordPress and another that integrated with Instagram.  The latter, since I have discovered an enjoyment of taking photographs, is, in no small measure what has helped me build a presence on Steemit.  The former took a bit longer which was largely a consequence of the residual funk, and from which I really only emerged this year.

Discovering a virtual community family

Certain social media platforms make use of hashtags.  I never really paid them much attention until she who was responsible for getting me to join Steemit, gave me a bit of a crash course.  I began using them more and more strategically, and suddenly my posts were “noticed” and I was invited to join groups of folk with shared interests or roots:  fellow countrymen in Team South Africa; groups of potographers – a bit of a shock considering I am not even a rank amateur in that department.  The third community that I was invited to join was the PowerHouseCreatives (then known as Steemitbloggers), and founded by longtime friend (in real life) and also responsible my being on the platform and for aforesaid logo, Jayne.

Not long after joining that group, and really beginning to enjoy myself, disaster struck.  I fell victim to a phishing scam, and my account was hacked.  One of the things one is told when joining a crypto platform is to save your password.  Your master password cannot easily be changed.  It cannot be retrieved.  Save your password. Don’t lose your password. Your account contains money; it is valuable.  Save your password.  The Steem Based Dollar at the time was worth US$1.37.

At the time, my account was worth about US$ 250.  Not much to some people, but to me, huge.  It was the most devastating experience and one which I shan’t forget, not because of being hacked, but because of how the two communities in which I was most active, comprising people I virtually (in the real sense of the word) knew.  It was a profoundly lifechanging experience.

Since then, the core of one of those group shas become as close knit as any family:  it has its ups and downs, but when the chips are down, they rally to keep it together and support each other.  I have made friends with folk from all over the world and find myself extending genuine invitations for them to break bread in our home in the event they are ever in South Africa.  As soon as 2020, I hope.  Their compassion when I lost a mentor and friend remains with me, as with other losses during that year.

A space to write, discuss, and play games

Today, two years ago, I registered my account on Steemit.  While those memories of the early tribulations remain with me, I have learned a great deal about how the ecosystem works (or doesn’t) for the likes of me.  Recognising that is is an ecosystem is key, and like all ecosystems, there are times when it thrives and others when it comes under threat.  That the ecosystem is inhabited by humans with feet of clay, makes conflict and disagreement inevitable.  It’s how one engages with, or avoids, that conflict that determines one’s survival on the platform.  It never ceases to amaze me how some folk “speak” to other Steemians.  I often wonder if they’d tolerate a similar level of abuse, and whether they’ve forgotten that they are not addressing a machine.

I digress.  As usual.

A random photograph of a blushing bride: they flower on the mountains behind the village. Only in spring.

In my two years on Steemit, I have had the opportunity to reflect on significant milestones in my life, including a swansong and the village where we live.  Some have been quite serious, others very serious and others less so.  I have also found myself writing pieces with my toungue firmly in my cheek.  I was rather taken aback on receiving and email from the Wall Street Journal’s South African representative, asking, “May we quote you?”  That some of my musings have been recognised by the curation initiatives on the platform are a source of pride and gratification, I cannot lie, especially for a post I’d not have thought worth considering.

On Steemit, I have found myself doing what, for me, a few years ago, would have been unthinkable:  participating in challenges and contests.  In April, I took up fellow PowerHouseCreative and blog pal Traci York’s challenge to do a daily post for a month.  A challenge it was, and somehow, I managed to do it:  not just for thirty days, but for five weeks.

And the contests

Much to my surprise, I’ve allowed myself to be enticed by these, and despite myself, it’s fun.  There is a caveat, though:  the topic must speak to me.  I won’t compete for the sake of competing and winning.  If I win?  Well, who doesn’t like winning?  It’s just the cherry on the top.

So,  with my 236th post, I mark my second anniversary on Steemit.  It is, as it was for my first anniversary, an entry to a @zord189’s weekly contest, and this week’s topic, “My Steem Journey” was already on the agenda.

In closing, thank you to my Steemit and PHC family for sharing the last two years with me.  Clichés, I’m afraid are all that work there:

  • there are too many to mention;  and
  • it would not have been possible without you

Until next time
Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post Script

  • I blog on three platforms:  WordPress and Instagram, both of which auto post to Steemit.  Instagram is mostly a visual with microblogs about fluff:  mostly food and the cats and posts that sometimes promise hint about future WordPress posts.
  • My WordPress site is hosted by fellow Steemian, @gmuxx, with fees paid in crypto currency: Steem Based Dollars.  If you want more information, join the Steemblogs Club on Discord

On the Steem platform, I am part of these communities

Designed by @zord189

Share2Steem where compulsive Instagrammers like me, can earn

Original design for Team South Africa by @bearone

 

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le zoulou blanc – a man for all

It’s nearly a year, to the day, since I shared what was, effectively the soundtrack of my life (on WordPress; on Steemit).  It was, in part a piece of fluff, but in others, not.  In the final paragraph, I note,

There are songs missing from this list and which I’d love to have included, like Johnny Clegg’s Asimbonanga (We have not seen him [Mandela])….”

At the time, I knew Clegg had pancreatic cancer, so my rational head knew that his time was coming but I didn’t expect it.  The news of his death came as I was preparing dinner on an ordinary Tuesday in July.  It seemed that suddenly the world, and South Africa in particular, were the poorer.  Another voice in the soundtrack of my life silenced forever.

I was seventeen the first time I heard a Juluka song.  I was at boarding school, and as seniors, we were allowed to have our own transistor radios.

A necessary digression

At the end of the preceding year, 1979, the first independent radio station in South Africa had been launched.  Broadcasting from the beautiful and then pristine coastal village of Port St Johns in the “independent” Transkei, Capital Radio 604 was essentially a music station that broadcast music and news often not heard on mainstream state-owned radio stations.

Source

The line-up, I clearly remember, included a mishmash of folk:  Englishmen (pukka) an American and South Africans – black and white.  Unheard of.  As a young, unaware kid, the significance was totally lost on me.  As was the fact that one of the most popular songs of 1980 was banned in South Africa:  Pink Floyd’s Another brick in the wall. It was also on this radio station that Juluka’s song, Africa topped the charts.  It was their first hit.

I listen to this song and am immediately transported into the cell-like room in which I stayed for at least one term.  It had no windows and could literally just take a narrow single bed, the “tin shanty” as we called our bedside lockers and the laundry box that stood at the foot of the bed.

In my childish ignorance, I did not know that the African language melded with the English, was isiZulu.  I had only been exposed to a little isiXhosa.  Of course, I sang every single word, but my words in the isiZulu verses were all mondegreens.  It’s only as an adult, searching for the lyrics that I learned what they meant:

As he grew, people told him, son, don’t you trust anyone, you don’t learn how to trust a stone,
This is not a gentle land, and it breaks those who never learn how to be alone.

Afrika kukhala abangcwele
eAfrika kukhala abangcwele wena (Africa be holy to you)

And so, he walked in the passion of his land, until at last he cried out,
Can anybody hear, hear me, hear the song in my heart?
There’s a song to be sung that can heal these broken men,
Let us sing and we’ll walk through the dark, hand in hand, hand in hand.

From the album, Universal Men, 1979

They took on a new poignancy for me yesterday when I saw this Facebook post from Andrew Boraine:

While in solitary confinement in 1980, I would pace around my cell and sing to myself over and over a Johnny Clegg and Jaluka song [Africa}, to strengthen my resolve in the face of my interrogators:….

RIP Johnny, I will miss you and your music. It saved me when I was a young man. It is part of the soundtrack of my life.

That Clegg, Jaluka and Savuka’s music was integral to the soundtrack of so many South Africans’ lives, was the overriding theme to all the tributes I heard yesterday: from the celebrities and musicians who worked with him, to ordinary people, whom he may or may not have actually met.

Clegg, in an interview, following his diagnosis and in advance of his Final Journey Tour, said two things that resonated for me.  He didn’t go looking for politics, but rather that “politics found me”:  because he had simply followed his passion and curiosity, spending time with the people with whom he felt most connected.  The second was that he had toured every year since 1983.

This made me realise that when I was at university, and the first time I saw him perform, they were on that first tour.  The venues had to be places where he and Sipho Mchunu could perform together on the same stage:  the liberal (white) universities and townships.  I remember the Great Hall at Rhodes University, filling up with students, armed with their joints cigarettes, cheap wine and/or beer.  The music, in modern parlance, was epic, and even thirty-six years later, the image of the two of them doing the high kicks of Zulu dances, is as vivid as if it had been just last night (without the side-effects of alcohol and second-hand dope-smoking).

How far we have come:  a friend of mine from those days, now living in London, was at both that concert and at the London show of the Final Journey Tour.  He and I have not seen each other since we both lived in Johannesburg in the mid- to late 1980s, and this was our exchange on Facebook the night Clegg died:

Steve and I were on opposite sides of the student politics spectrum.  We ran into each other where I worked in 1986, and had our first ever real adult conversation.  We both lived in Yeoville and we both lived in Rockey Street, a few houses from each other.  As he says:  all those years ago (with no apologies to George Harrison, whose 1981 song is also part of the soundtrack of our university days, too).

The years, 1982 to 1986 were also the time of my political awakening:  I have alluded to it elsewhere, but it was driven home in 1986 when I spent some of my happiest ever times dancing the night away to Maskanda and Mbaqanga music in the depths of Soweto. I tell you:  this white girl could dance.  She was, in those circles, made an “honorary Sowetan”;  an honour I still hold dear.

The following year saw the release of Asimbonanga (We have not seen him [Mandela])….”.  Many young people don’t know the double entendre of “we have not seen him”: any likeness, image or photograph of Nelson Mandela was also banned. In about 1988, an early memoir of Winnie Mandela emerged, written by Fatima Meer.  It contained photographs of Winnie;  not one of Madiba.  Asimbonanga, with its most haunting melody, celebrates and mourns people killed by the Apartheid. At the time Clegg wrote it, neither he, nor I dreamed that Mandela would be free, let alone be South Africa’s first democratically elected President. One can only but imagine how he felt, singing this song and discovering Mandela behind him. I watch it now, and have, many times and still the tears come.

Clegg’s songs punctuate different parts of my life; it was not until I worked in the mining industry, and had actually gone down gold mines, that the words of African Sky Blue really hit:

I could reel off and find other songs that I love, especially from the first two albums whose songs take me back to the common room at boarding school and parties at university, but I shan’t.  There is, however, one that must not be glossed over. Clegg wrote it after the death of a band member.  That year, 1997, was a year of crossing for me, too.  It was the first time I had to confront the sudden death of a colleague and friend.  It also marked a crossing point in my first marriage.

It is the song that a group of Clegg’s friends recorded for him – as a surprise gift – and as a celebration of the man – just eight months ago.

When Sipho Hotstix Mabuse, was interviewed yesterday morning, he pondered the significance of his having spontaneously played this on his saxophone the morning of Clegg’s own crossing.

Johnny Clegg

(7 June 1953 – 16 July 2019)

Chevalier des Arts et Lettres (Knight of Arts and Letters)

OBE

OIS

Your voice may be silent, but your songs live on

Sources:

Until next time
Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post Script

  • I blog on three platforms:  WordPress and Instagram, both of which auto post to Steemit.  Instagram is mostly a visual with microblogs about fluff:  mostly food and the cats and posts that sometimes promise hint about future WordPress posts.
  • My WordPress site is hosted by fellow Steemian, @gmuxx, with fees paid in crypto currency: Steem Based Dollars.  If you want more information, join the Steemblogs Club on Discord

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Monday: wasn’t that last week?

I can’t believe that Monday is just about over.  Last time I looked, it was Monday, and that was a week ago.

The weekend went by in a flash and was more social than is our usual custom, including with a later-than-usual Sunday Supper, so we really did feel Monday this morning.

Focus has been a bit of a challenge today, not helped by a stopped-up shower outlet.  It’s Monday, you know….  I did, though, mange to get through most of my “to do list”.

I had to find some photographs for another reason, and came across these.  They’re all a bit random, but I love them.

I loved this fascinating sculpture at a wine estate outside Paarl. I could have spend hours just photographing it – created from bits of old farming implements.  A photograph from 2014.
No, it’s not what you think. Yes, it looks like an antique telephone – who remembers the rotary dials? On closer inspection, it really is faux. And it’s genuine plastic. In a restaurant in Paternoster. A photograph from 2016.
I went through a phase where I was fascinated with lines and rows and symmetry – and how to photograph them. This photo, from 2017, is of tin cans that I re-purposed as cutlery caddies and paper napkin holders.
This is in a friend’s garden:  I love the re-purposed pallet and the clever use of old wine bottles for interest and colour. The monochrome, though, shows the texture of the urn and the wood to better effect.  This 2017 photograph is a reminder of a wonderful afternoon of wine, conversation and braai in their back garden. With, of course, wine. I’m wondering if she’ll notice…. Another photograph from 2007.

Then it dawned on me:  they’re connected.

So –

This is my first entry to the Monday Monochrome contest on Steemit hosted by @old-guy-photos. It was prompted by his comment on this post which was part of fellow Steemian @traciyork‘s challenge to share a post a day for a full month ( #SteemBloPoMo), earlier this year – April, I think.

Until next time
Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post Script

  • I blog on three platforms:  WordPress and Instagram, both of which auto post to Steemit.  Instagram is mostly a visual with microblogs about fluff:  mostly food and the cats and posts that sometimes promise hint about future WordPress posts.
  • My WordPress site is hosted by fellow Steemian, @gmuxx, with fees paid in crypto currency: Steem Based Dollars.  If you want more information, join the Steemblogs Club on Discord

On the Steem platform, I am part of these communities

Designed by @zord189

Share2Steem where compulsive Instagrammers like me, can earn

Original design for Team South Africa by @bearone

 

Let me help with your English writing
Rates depend on the depth of edit required
More about why I am offering this service here
Contact me

 

Bored Games

There is not one board game in our house.  When I met The Husband, there was an ancient game of Trivial Pursuit which arrived as part of the final merger.  Somewhere, though, over the last nearly 20 years, it’s gone.  I think it got thrown out because it was so old…

Source

I loathe bored board games.  As for games evenings, well, I’d rather sit around around a table, break bread and enjoy conversation.  I remember a time when when a group of us would gather at mutual friends’ homes to watch the rugby (local and international matches).  When the practise began, the match was followed by a meal – usually a braai or if it was a late-ish match, a winter warmer like a curry or oxtail would be consumed during the match. Of course, the post-match conversation included detailed and scientific analysis which could run the gamut of emotions from jubilation to anger and desolation.  It all depended on whose side had won or lost or the referee’s folly.  Generally, though, the conversation would move on to other things.

Then, something changed.  I’m not sure what, and instead of conversation it was either Trivial Pursuit or 30 Seconds.  Both games are fun with the latter being my favourite of the two, but having spent well nigh on two hours glued to a television, why?

I have a love-hate relationship with Trivial Pursuit and quizzes, generally:  although I can be, and often am, a mine of useless information, I don’t do well under pressure.  In a quizz, when I know the answer, I’m so happy about it that I develop a temporary Tourette’s-like condition and just shout it out.  Often I know I know an answer, but it doesn’t appear in my brain, let alone get to my mouth.  Until the following day.  Fat lot of good!

30 Seconds, on the other hand is a bit like charades with cards and words.  Need I say more?

Oh, and did you know that this game was invented by a South African? Source

Games from my childhood

Cold winter Sunday afternoons were times for board games.  In front of the fire after the parents had had their afternoon snooze.  The entire house, including the dog would take to their beds.  Except me.  Mother gave up on forcing me to have an afernoon zizz.  I just couldn’t and still don’t.  I’d prefer to curl up under an eiderdown, or in the sun, with a book.

Just another reason for a love-hate relationship with board games:  playing them was not an option.  That said, I will acknowledge that there were times when I allowed myself to have fun.

So, what were the games?

Well, I recall for Christmas one year, getting a compendium of games which included everything from snakes and ladders and ludo to tiddlywinks and bingo.  Although I played snakes and ladders, to this day, I don’t see the point.  Perhaps I’m a little dim.   Ludo, well, let’s just say that it didn’t seem quite so pointless.

Tiddlywinks
Source

With tiddlywinks, skill and dexterity are a prerequisite, as they are with Pick-up Sticks which I did enjoy.  Someone gave me a set, I can’t remember whom, and I loved them.  Technically, neither are board games, right?

Source

There were three other games that featured at different times in my childhood and all of which were much enjoyed and only ever played with my Dad.  It’s a long time since I played any of them:

Collage created on BeFunky with stockpics

But

It’s the board games I’m supposed to be talking about. There were two others that we played as a family.  One, I mentioned in passing here, was a present from Granny – Peter Rabbit’s Race Game.

Source

Mine looked exactly like this and when we played, I was always Jemima Puddleduck.

The other, and more frequently-played game was Monopoly.  We had the South African version and when I ventured, for the first time to one or other of South Africa’s major cities, I loved discovering the premium properties in real life:  Eloff Street where I’d shop and catch buses when I worked in the centre of Johannesburg.  Roeland Street down which I’d drive if I had occasion to go to the centre of Cape Town to, among other places, the parliamentary precinct.

Vintage South African Monopoly Source

If memory serves, “my” piece was always the iron.  My mother’s which I only remembered when I looked at the picture, was the battleship.

I have no idea what happened to those sets which, the research for this post suggests, would now sell for a pretty penny.  I wondered why until I realised that those sets would have been more than 40 years old…

An unscientific theory

I am not a gamer.  The closest I get to any gaming is one or other iteration of solitaire.  I will play it on the PC;  give me a pack of cards and I’ll play one or other version of patience.  I think of it as “brewing” time for the project(s) on which I’m working.

I have often been struck by the time that the male of the species will spend either on playing a game, or creating (a) game(s) and striving for perfection.  Frankly, I have too much to do – in the kitchen, around the house and just getting on with life.  It was one of my pet peeves that my ex-husband could would live in a pig sty and eat swill and spend all his spare time on a game.  I just didn’t get it.

So, my theory is that women actually have a whole lot less free time than men.  Whether we like it or not, managing the home and caring for children is still primarily women’s work – over and above what we might do to earn a living.  Time on their hands, and what do men who don’t have a hobby, play sport and who no longer hunt for food, or go to war, do?

Create and play games.

Perhaps this scientific notion, in addition patriarchy, could also explain why most of the arts are still dominated by men?

My favourite three board games, if I were to choose?

  1. 30 Seconds must top the list.  It can be serious educational and fun.  It can be played in teams which makes it elastic, and more fun.  It can also be played by people of all ages and “skill” level.
  2. Draughts – I’d love to play this again.  I recall watching folk play this on the streets of Johannesburg:  the games were as fast as the lightning of a Highveld thunderstorm.  I loved playing this game with my Dad.
  3. Finally, and it’s just for sentimental reasons:  Peter Rabbit’s Race Game

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, let me explain what prompted this post:

An evil, really nice bunch of people in our PowerHouseCreatives group on Steemit run a themed contest once a month.  It’s always about one’s Top 3 of something or other.  I keep on saying I don’t do competitions because I don’t do competitive.  I really don’t.  But then, I keep on participating.

Ahem…

So far, all the topics have piqued my interest in one way or another, including last month’s to which I had absolutely no connection, but which got me thinking.  You can read that entry here.

This month’s theme:

Board Games

text16.png
Open up the cabinet and blow off the dust, we are breaking out the board games for the topic this month! Get ready to duke it out for your favorite game piece (we all had that lucky one, right?) and clear off the table for a night of fun. Perhaps it was a family tradition to come together at the end of the day, maybe a monthly date with friends, or getting the big guns out whilst the stereo system was playing dodgy Christmas songs! However it happened, we want to know, so share your top 3 favorite board games that you couldn’t resist bringing to the table!

Find the full post here

Until next time
Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post Script

  • On Steemit, thank you to the team @curie for their support of the PHC Top 3 concept.  If you want to delegate to @phctop3:
5SP 10SP 25SP
50SP 100SP 150SP
200SP 250SP 300SP
400SP 500SP 1000SP
  • I blog on three platforms:  WordPress and Instagram, both of which auto post to Steemit.  Instagram is mostly a visual with microblogs about fluff:  mostly food and the cats and posts that sometimes promise hint about future WordPress posts.
  • My WordPress site is hosted by fellow Steemian, @gmuxx, with fees paid in crypto currency: Steem Based Dollars

On the Steem platform, I am part of these communities

 

Designed by @zord189

Share2Steem where compulsive Instagrammers like me, can earn

Original design for Team South Africa by @bearone

 

Let me help with your English writing
Rates depend on the depth of edit required
More about why I am offering this service here
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Dotty about blue – PowerHouseCreatives contest – 30 June 2019

It’s a toss up as to whether blue or purple is my favourite colour.  Our house is full of bits of blue crockery that I have acquired over the years.  It’s a thing now, that I shouldn’t be buying things blue.  Anyhow, initially, I wasn’t sure that I’d participate in this week’s contest because, as I keep on saying, contests are not my thing, but here I am.  Because I am drawn to all things blue….

Before I get to it, here are the details of this week’s contest on Steemit:

Remember this fun little game, ‘eye spy with my little eye’ that you would usually play on your roadtrips? Basically, for those who have not heard of this game before, it’s pretty simple. The gamemaster would say ‘eye spy with my little eye something ROUND’! And everyone would have to guess what the gamemaster is refering to that can be seen along the road.

For this week, you have to do is photograph the object and write about it!

Contest :

Eye Spy With My Little Eye v2

The prompt – I spy with my little eye something….. Blue and Round! Criteria :

1. Take a photo of something blue and round!

2. That photo must be taken recently, no more than 7 days old. (I trust you peeps on this)

3. Write about that object/person/etc

4. Entry must not be less than 350 words cause who knows, you might get curie or ocd 🙂

5. Add a nice title to your entry.

So, as usual, I’ve used creative license.  All the photographs that follow have been taken today (talk about cutting it fine…).  I’ve chosen the pieces because each of them has its own story.  Some are fresher in my memory than others.

First, this jug and bowl set.  It’s more than 20 years old and is used regularly for Sunday Supper, and the handle has had running repairs at least once.

Second, this little moon plate is sister to a sun which pair I bought on a trip to Mallorca 20 years ago this year.  I caught the bus to Fellanix which is known for its ceramics.

I came away with more than that pair:  some wonderful, rustic paella dishes which had rounded bases;  they were glazed inside, but not outside and the ancient design was such that they could be used on both the stove top and the open fire.  Alas they didn’t get home with me as the delicate bases shattered en route in my suitcase.  This jug and basin set did, though.

The set sits next to one of my most favourite pieces:  a dotty jug which is also about 20 years old.  I can’t remember whether I bought it from the potter’s gallery or from the potters’s studio.  The dotty mugs that sit on the shelf below, I do recall our getting them.

From the Millstone Pottery in McGregor – before we moved to McGregor – and before we got to know the potters, themselves, let alone expected to live here.  The stripy pair are Paul’s work, too, acquired after we moved.  Those mugs, as with everything else are in regular use.  The Husband, for whatever reason, has declared that the striped ones are Saturday mugs.  The dotty ones, Sunday.  Why?  I have no clue.  Best not to ask.

Returning to things round and blue, this set of six I did buy at the Potter’s Market which happens twice a year, in March and November in Cape Town.  I spent ages selecting six different ones.  I have also had these for more than 20 years, so The Husband had no say in much of the blue crockery.  He chose me.  He had no choice with the crockery.

After my visit to Spain, I decided that I’d try to collect a piece of crockery from every country I visited.  This little dish, which makes a “set” along with the sun and moon, is from Japan when I visited there in 2001.

With apologies for the dust. We live in a dust bowl and this display hangs just inside the kitchen door which is open most of the time. Not sensible because I have clearly created my own dust trap!

The complete set:  two blue and round; one blue and yellow.  Ceramics from two continents.

Last but not least, one of my favourite pieces and which, was an impulse buy with The Husband before The Husband was The Husband.  We were in a little seaside town and were browsing in one of those shops that sold everything from suntan lotion and bathing suits to kitchen utensils and yes, enamel.  I love red and blue enamel.  I also love white enamel with blue.  I have to be physically restrained from buying it whenever I see it.

There was no restraint when it came to this little bowl. It’s the perfect size in which to rest a batch of koeksister batter – it’s used a lot.  It’s also the perfect contrast to the beautiful red chillies that have been sitting in it for the last couple of days waiting for my attention.

Until next time
Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

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The Mercurial Freddie

I am an unashamed Queen fan.  Their music is intertwined in the soundtrack of my life, going back to 1976 when I began to be enamoured with pop.  Their music is fascinating on a range of levels, from the music iteslf, to the lyrics.  Bohemian Rhapsody is open to so much interpretation and in the days when lyrics were included with the record (yes, we had the record), one could learn the the correct ones off by heart.  I remember looking up “Bismillah”, “Scaramouche” and “Beelzebub”.  I hear that song, and others, and the words just come out of my mouth.  Involuntarily.

Freddie Mercury always seemed a larger than life character and that he was.  In October 1984, the year I turned 21, Queen came to South Africa to play at Sun City and I didn’t go.  I regret little in my life, but not having made more of an effort to take the trip, is one of them.  That said, perhaps it wasn’t a bad thing – Freddie had issues with his voice and a couple of concerts were cancelled; with my luck, that would have been “my” night.  It was the most controversial part of the tour because the Equity ban precluded British artists from performing in South Africa.  Because of Apartheid.  However, Sun City was located in the then “independent” state of Bophutatswana and which was “Apartheid-free”.

When I heard about Bohemian Rhapsody, the Freddie Mercury biopic, I was nervous about seeing it.  Who could be Freddie?  Nobody, I thought.  Then the reviews emerged – mixed.  And then Rami Malek, contrary to critics’ expectations, won the Oscar.  My interest was piqued and after hearing from contemporaries that they loved it, I wanted to see it.  Living where we do, and not getting to the big city the cinema very often, I was delighted when our local thespian laid his hands on a newly released copy of the Blu Ray and showed it at his theatre.  

With reservations and with great anticipation, I went to see the film.  It is not the best film ever made – by a long shot.  Malek is wooden and tries too hard to be Freddie.  The actors playing Roger Taylor (and I loved his solo album, The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking) and John Deacon were similarly wooden.  “Brian May” was probably the most comfortable in his character.  Despite all this –

I loved every minute.

I said so in a Facebook post which unleased denigrating comments from two university contempories which, I think, reflects the extent to which Freddie Mercury was misunderstood.  This is the comment that most got me, and on which I have been reflecting ever since:

[the film]…made out that Freddy was a (sic) AIDS sufferer supporter…which is complete bullshit. If you read the auto biography Freddy was promiscuous almost beyond belief…he literally had a queue of young men outside his hotel room door who came in one-by-one to provide Freddy with an ‘all night service’. And then when he got Aids, (how surprising), he hid it as long as he possibly could and did nothing to remove its stigma or do anything for other sufferers. Freddy was a million miles away from being the saint they paint him as in the movie.

My response then:

It was honest without being as brutal as it could have been. Call me old and soft, but I appreciated that.

I went to see the film a second time and enjoyed it as much.  It also made me reflect even more on the extent to which Freddie has been villified in some quarters.  Largely unfairly, I believe:

 Some context:

Growing up in South Africa meant that I grew up in a very conservative environment, in a country governed by Calvanistic Christian government:  Apartheid meant that races could not mix.  People of different races could not live next door to each other;  mixed marriages (sex across the “colour bar”) were (was) prohibited.  By law.  There was a peice of legislation:  The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act.  Similarly, sexual relations between people of the same sex was illegal.  Doors were broken down, people hauled out of beds and imprisoned.  Members of the armed forces suspected of being gay, were subjected to “corrective treatment”.  That is the society in which I grew up, as did the person who made that comment.  Homosexuality was also illegal in the UK when Freddie was a young adult; only in 1967 was it decriminalised for males over the age of 21.

This means that we, like Freddie and his contemporaries, grew up in a homophobic world before AIDS and HIV:  it reared its head as a public health issue (and with terror tactics) in what would have been our last year or two of university.  It was highly stigmatised:  it was a gay disease;  it was also a disease of promiscuity.  It was, and for some still is, the equivalent of Biblical leprosy.  Notwithstanding the fact that there is now enough reliable information in the public domain which gives a lie to all of that.

During 1989, and when it was gay men who were most concerned about becoming infected, I had the mixed blessing of having a gay friend who discovered that his new partner, with whom he had hoped to have a permanent relationship, was HIV positive.  The partner had not disclosed and they’d been having unprotected sex.  My friend  and I went to see the film Longtime Companion, a classic about a community of friends confronting the ravages of AIDS. My friend had broken up with his earstwhile partner but was waiting for the outcome of the first of several tests necessary to find out his status.  It was still in the window period and then there would be the wait for a further six months.  The results are not important.  What is important is that my friend is one of the least promiscuous people I have ever known.  He knew, and would talk about Fire Island and the gay lifestyle;  he had lived in, and returned to Florida.  I have forgotten none of his agony, anger nor relief.

That agony can only be second to the agony of someone grappling with coming out and which includes having to acknowledge to themselves and to a still hostile society, their sexual preference and its implications.  I have had the privilege of walking alongside two dear friends as they have taken this step.  It’s neither a choice, and nor does coming out make life easier.  It just makes life different and choices different.  Nor, in 2019, does it mean that the world is accepting and not homophobic.

Farrokh Bubara

Freddie Mercury, I believe, was very much a product of, and a victim of, his time.  Although he died at 45, we should remember that this year, he’d have turned 73.  He was nearly 20 years my senior.  Effectively a different generation.  That bears thinking about, as does his early and young life.

Although he was born in Zanzibar, his father was employed by the British Colonial Service (as incidentally was mine) which sent him there from his native India (the family were Parsis from the Gujarati region, and were Zoarastrians).  The young Freddie was sent back to India to an English “public school-like” boarding establishment.  What parent, today, relishes sending their children to boarding school?  Less so now that the conduct of certain school masters and initiation practices  are increasingly being publicly acknowledged as “established” phenomena.  A few years later, in 1964 when Freddie was just 18, the Zanzibar revolution, led by Muslims, forced the family to flee.  Nowhere else to go, they ended up in London where he clearly didn’t fit in. To add insult to injury, it was assumed he was from Pakistan, a country run by Muslims, the very people that hounded the family from Zanzibar – with nothing. Source

This would have been tough for any adolescent, especially for someone sensitive, with enormous talent and unconventional looks; I can only imagine how he felt about himself as a young adult.  Having had my own journey having my teeth “fixed” and my mother making a big deal about my ears, along with all the other “you’re-ugly-and-your-mother-dresses-you-funny” experiences of my childhood and adolescence in boarding school, I have an inkling.

About his being gay, one of Freddie’s biographers says:

The world has changed so much. He was a arecording artist in the ’70s and ’80s, two decades when the level of homophobia is difficult for anyone born after 1980 to fully comprehend. In particular, Britain and the USA were scary places for gay people, and the onset of AIDS gave license to the religious fulminators and right-wing zealots.

Hiding his HIV status and developing a larger than life persona that sheltered the deeper, sensitive, private human being must have been Freddie’s survival strategy.  The debauchery, which was touched upon in the film was a combination of what was expected of a rock star, the machinations of another lost soul who had found his meal ticket (or so he thought), as well as Freddie’s own proclivities and insecurities.

Freddie was no saint, that much is clear.  Perhaps his feet of clay did not feature in the film as much as his detractors might have liked.

With hindsight, two songs strike me as particularly poignant.  Was this, for most of his life, Freddie’s quest?

This one, hated by an old boyfriend of mine, is as relevant today as it was in 1984.

Lastly, this happens to be one of my absolute favourite Queen songs, not often played, which is my only reason for including it.

Post Script:

June is Pride month…

Until next time
Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

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Circles, endings and beginnings

Twenty eight years ago, on 13 June 1991, the first property I ever owned, was registered in my name. I was 28 years old.

Last week, on 13 June 2019, I finally signed what, I hope believe is a legitimate offer to purchase.  The property is a two bedroomed flat (apartment) in Johannesburg, in one of the more cosmopolitan parts of the city.  I lived in that area – in several different apartments – between 1986 and my departure at the beginning of 1993.  In those seven years, I moved more times than I care to remember;  therein lies part of the reason for the purchase.  About a year prior, I had had a huge salary increase which provided me with the means, after three years, to get out of a place that was cold, opened virtually directly on to a busy road and had no garaging (I had to hire a parking space from a friend in a neighbouring street).

Anyhow, after three very happy years of living there, it was time to move.  I found my perfect apartment – it was sunny, had under cover parking, access control and was not on ground level, and best of all, had a balcony I could actually use and enjoy.

1991 in my sunny lounge of my perfect apartment. Don’t you just love the hair?

So when I was given notice that my 12-month lease would not be renewed, I was far from happy.  The owner was intending to move back in.  She would, however, entertain an offer to purchase.

Good.

But.

Isn’t there always?

It was unaffordable.  It did, however, sow a seed.  That seed was fed with the compost of “nobody is ever going to rob me of the roof over my head”.  That attitude was hardened by my mother (with whom, unless I’ve not mentioned it before, I had a somewhat strained relationship), when I told her (and was actually gearing up to ask for help), responded

Well, you just won’t be able to buy it, will you?

There ended that conversation and any thought of asking for help.  Ever again.

I was on a mission and went to see my bank manager.  He was a nice, helpful man who went above and beyond help me work out what was affordable and to make it possible for me to buy the the next best thing.

In Bellair, 1992:  in begged and borrowed glad rags for a black-tie award ceremony. I loved wearing high heels – running for the bus in 4-inch stillettoes was a daily occurrence.  Better hair!

Little did I know, then, that affairs of the heart would intervene and I would not just leave the flat, but also Johannesburg.  Since then, only ever to returned as a visitor or on business.  I’ve not set foot in the property since I walked out of the front door for the last time in late January 1993.

In the intervening years, there have been a number of tenants with the first being the most memorable.  He was in the local music industry and the brother of a university friend who was a neighbour – in the same block.  Suffice it to say that we both came off second best:  she and her family, because he didn’t bother to pay rent.  They were mortified and helped me to evict him, but not after it cost me thousands in lost rental and subsequent repairs.  At that point, I handed the property over to a rental agent to handle, and things went spiffingly for a few years.

Until.

The rental income stopped and I could raise no-one at the office – phones were not answered and emails bounce back.  I was at a loss until the company that managed the body corporate (building) contacted me:

Do you know that XYZ Property has gone bang?

The upsot:  more money lost and a very unhappy tenant who had also lost money.  The rental services were then taken over by the building management company.  Suffice it to say that that has not been without its challenges, either, and perhaps, the less said about these at this point, the better.

I have, on more than one occasion, tried to sell the property only to be scuppered.  Although I bought the property after Nelson Mandela was released in 1990 and “things were easing”, they weren’t really.  Remember, I said about the area:

one of the more cosmopolitan parts of the city

That meant that there were folk of all races living not just in the suburb, but in the building.  Because the Group Areas Act had not been repealed this was, technically, illegal.  Look again at the title deed:

Of course, its cosmopolitan fabric had a detrimental effect on the property values.  More to the point, the area was red-lined: banks stopped granting loans to prospective buyers in the area.  Notwithstanding this, and ironically, there was a sudden price boom.  So although I tried to sell the property in advance of my departure, it just didn’t.  I was in a pretty pickle.  Especially as an absentee landlord, a prospect (and subsequent reality that) I never relished.  For a while, I did what I could to maintain the property from the income I received, but when the economy in South Africa was such that the interest on the bond (mortgage) was 25% – I kid you not – the rent – and then some – went into the home loan.

Another the thing that happened in the last 15 or so years:  the managing agents advised that they could trace the majority of the owners.  They’d just upped and left so the building was going to wrack and ruin.  No-one else was paying their dues to the body corporate, let alone the municipality.

Will you become a trustee and chair the board?

My instinct was “no”, simply based on the fact that I was not resident in Johannesburg.  I sought advice.  My attorney’s very polite response:

Are you out of your cotton-picking mind?

So, on legal advice, I took a step back;  I could have ended up being personally liable for the debt and problems associated with the entire property when in actual fact, other than the home loan, there was none associated with my unit.

So, last Thursdy, 13 June 2019 is, I hope, the beginning of the happy ending to this chapter.

Until next time
Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

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Television? After school? Never!

Nearly three months ago, a group of from the PowerHouseCreatives, a space in which I play on Steemit, launched a monthly competition with a theme.  We then choose our top 3 within that theme, and explain why we’ve chosen them.  There is the chance of winning something, but that’s not why I participate.  In the first two, I happily participated – one was comedy films (and you can read my entry here). The second continued the film theme, and was yes, tunes from the movies, a topic that I really could get into, which is why I participated – and went a trifle over the top.  That entry is here.

This month, is a somewhat different story – it centres around children’s TV programmes.  The full details are here, but suffice it to say, that kids’ TV programmes and I, well, we didn’t have a relationship.  The theme, however, did get me thinking about what I may, or may not have missed.

Television arrived in South Africa in 1976, a seminal year in my life and in South Africa.  This last had nothing to do with TV or me;  it was the year that South Africa’s black youth rebelled against the use of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in schools.  That will be 43 years ago on June 16th.  For me, it was significant because it was the year I went to boarding school.

Neither of these events have anything to do with children’s TV, obviously, except that it was only at boarding school that I got to watch television.  There, television-watching was tightly controlled and most certainly not in the afternoon after school – that time was reserved for sport, homework and just generally getting on with “stuff”.  When I went home for the holidays, there was no TV, either, so we would watch selected programmes, next door, with our tv-owning neighbour.  I think it must have been three or four years later that my parents acquired a television.  It had certainly happened by 1981 because a crowd of my uni mates invaded my parents’ livingroom to watch the wedding of the century (as far as we were concerned):  Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer.

I digress.  Again.

I am reaching an age – yes, I have to use that word – when I realise that I grew up in a world that today’s generation finds inconceivable.  No television.  I concede that I know people who have completely eschewed the box, but they are far and few between.  My parents came to South Africa in 1966;  I was three.  I have a distant memory of our sitting room in Bridlington, Yorkshire, and a black and white television set. The next time I saw one, was not in anybody’s home, but rather in the Journalism Department at Rhodes University. It must have been 1974 and was part of a holiday activity organised by the Sunday School.  It’s also the first time I stood in front of a TV camera.  Saturday was the most recent – more of that if, perhaps, when, the programme is aired, and includes a snippet of that two minute interview.

Returning to toddler Fiona’s “memory” of TV, my mother used to tell me about Pogo.  I believe that I once owned a pogo stick.  And Camberwick Green.  Both also “came” in comic form which we received from England, with Camberwick Green, a large, hardcover annual publication.  We only had one, and I read it over and over.  There was, of course, the radio and on the station to which my parents listened, was an afternoon slot, Little People’s Playtime, at around 3pm.  I have no idea of its duration, but I do remember that it included serialised renditions of Enid Blyton’s Noddy and CS Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia.  I was only ever a peripatetic listener in school holidays, on wintery afternoons, when it wasn’t possible to be outside.  During school terms, I listened only ever on a Wednesday:  our school day ended at 3.15pm.

So, that, and only having sons from other mothers, means that children’s television programmes are anathama.  What I did love, though, was sitting cuddled next to my granny while she read aloud.  The memories of her 1969 visit to South Africa, and this activity, are vivid.  She would sit in the middle of the sofa with her granddaughters on either side of her, a coffee table in front of her with a cigarette in a long black holder, smoking away in a large ashtray, while she clacked away with her knitting needles and read to us.

Delia Carroll Stockford, my maternal grandmother

She read the tales of Beatrix Potter – not all of them, then, because we’d get one or two to add to the collection, each Christmas.  I don’t know what happened to them, but I do believe we had an almost complete collection.

Source: Screenshot from a Google image search

It was not just Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter, but Tom Kitten, Squirrel Nutkin, Jemima Puddleduck, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle as well as Piggling Bland.  All names that cropped up all through my childhood including in the board game – also a Granny Christmas present.

Another much-loved set of characters was Little Grey Rabbit and her pals, Hare and Squirrel who danced around the may pole – among other things. It was also in because of series that I fell in love with The Speckeldy Hen and her speckled eggs.  I still love speckled eggs.

Source

When Granny couldn’t find another Beatrix Potter, it was a Little Grey Rabbit book that arrived in the post from Oxford, England.  We waited in anticipation, each Christmas and birthday.

Once I learned to read, I devoured books and would get as many as I possibly could out of the public or school library, often returning them early for a new crop.  I lived in those books and the pictures in my imagination were much more vivid and beautiful than anything on the covers or, I believe, film.

There is, though, something about listening to a story read aloud.  When we were a bit older, Granny sent another series:  all about Dr Doolittle, his dog, Gyp, and how Dr Doolittle could converse with animals.  By then I could read, and I’m not sure whether it was to spare her the agony of dispute resolution, or whether she wanted to read the books herself (that would have been me in her shoes), but Mum decreed, and would, read about a chapter an evening.  My sister and I would sit at her feet and listen in wrapt attention.

Source

It was only when I researched the various titles and authors of these books that I discovered that there was a vicarious link between CS Lewis and South Africa.  At the time, he was a member of the Literature Department at Oxford University, and a colleague of JRR Tolkein’s.  Tolkein was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa.  Tolkein’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are among the most memorable reads of my adolescence and early adulthood, and when television wasn’t the ubiquitous and pervasive phenomenon it is today.  They are also books I read again and again.

To ask me what my favourite books were are, is almost impossible.  I read many, and others I’ve not mentioned, remain in my memory.  Some – for reasons also connected to Granny – like AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, Now We are Six and Christopher Robin. When it came to other series, which, I suppose one could liken to a TV series, my two favourite ones were, again, from Enid Blyton:  The Secret Seven and The Famous Five.  At the time, Enid Blyton’s books were frowned upon as not “proper” reading material, but they did give (and I hope still do), millions of children a way of escaping their humdrum existences and at the same time instill in them a joy of reading.  Her Noddy series to which I’ve already referred, has had some rather drastic modernisation because, as a product of her time, characters reflected the mores of that period.  “Gollywog” is now unacceptable as a description, let alone as the name of a character, and similarly, to call a policeman “Big Ears” – because he needed them to keep his helmet from covering his eyes, just simply isn’t done.

It may seem that after we left the UK, and television, I might have had a deprived childhood, it certainly wasn’t missed.  My childhood was filled with fascinating worlds, colours and characters that lived in my imagination;  some still do.  The ones I’ve mentioned, are just a few – there were many, many others.

Post Script

This cannot be an entry into the June PHC Top 3 for two reasons:  firstly, I’ve missed the deadline for entry by a day, but also, there are no kids’ TV programmes about which I have any real knowledge to even begin to make a choice of three.  However, in support of the @phctop3 initiative, 50% of the Steem payout from this post will be transferred to that account.

Curation Trail

There is have a curation trail for @phctop3, which you can follow here to continue to add to the prize pool and the growth of the competition. Don’t forget to log into steemconnect.

Delegate to @phctop3

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Until next time
Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

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Raymond Louw: hamba kahle

Source via Facebook

There are times in one’s life when one does not know how privileged one is.  Such a time was the short period during which I worked as the National Development Manager of the New Era Schools Trust.  At the time, the board was chaired by Ramond Louw.  He took leave of this world, today, at 92.

At the time (around 1991, he would have been 64, and I in my late 20’s), I knew (who didn’t) he was the last editor of the Rand Daily Mail. At the time, he and Jean ran the by-subscription-publication, The Africa Report, which I believe is still operating.  I recall the deadlines and how it was all done from his study in their home in Parktown, Johannesburg.  It was typed on an early wordprocessor – probably WordPerfect – printed (photocopied) and posted.  That meant folding and stuffing and stamping (hundreds of) envelopes by hand.

Raymond and Jean welcomed me into their home. He was a gentle, firm man, with a wonderful sense of humour – he laughed from the depths, and with his eyes. There were times we galloped around Johannesburg in his huge old Mercedes Benz (which he rode like a cowboy); at others, he allowed me to chauffeur him in my “company” Opel Cadet – to see one or other ambassador in Pretoria.

I recall his stories of the last days of the Rand Daily Mail, especially its ultimate demise.

How I wish I had paid more attention.

I also remember, when we flew to Cape Town for the official opening of a new school.  I sat next to him on the plane and he regaled me with more stories – about his daughter, my namesake, he kept telling me:  he was so excited to be seeing Fiona Ramsay, (whose stage name is Jean’s maiden name), perform at Maynardville – for the first time in years.

To me, Raymond (never Ray) was a role model and mentor; he listened, engaged and guided. Nearly thirty years ago, there was no email: I delivered the documents and we discussed them, in their enormous, comfortable sitting room.  I was the willing back-room girl when we went to present our case to prospective donors or attended those ubitquitous fundraising functions.

On one occasion, when we were going to one such shindig, he was “Dad”, pointing out that one of the buttons down the back of my skirt, had come off.  He had spotted it on the seat of the car, and after a necessary inspection to determine whence on the skirt the button had come, suggested that I should simply keep my jacket on, saving me any embarrassment.

I worked for that organisation for just on a year, but during that time, Raymond had a profound influence on me.

That my alma mater, Rhodes University, bestowed an honorary doctorate of literature upon him, is a matter of personal pride.

That he died within a day of his beloved Jean, is a blessing to them both.

Source Photo credit: PenSouthAfrica

Thank you, Raymond, for your generosity to me all those years ago.  I shall never forget.

Hamba kahle, Raymond and Jean

Until next time
Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

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A month of Sundays? No, two years!

Two years ago, around the time, my regular blogs became increasingly sparse, as one chapter in my life ended, and others began.  One of these was Sunday Suppers @ The Sandbag House.  This post talks about that.

Would you believe that this Sunday was the second anniversary of Sunday Suppers @ The Sandbag House?  Since then, menus go out weekly to a WhatsApp group and via various social media and e-news channels in the village.  The menu for last night’s supper, except for the soup, is exactly the same as that Sunday’s.

Last year, at around the time that we marked the first anniversary of Sunday Suppers, we implemented a suggestion from regular diners, and started a book in which they could leave notes.  It’s also an interesting and easy way to keep track – mostly of the countries from which our village visitors come.  In the last year, we have hosted folk from England, Ireland and Scotland;  Sweden, Denmark and Germany;  Spain, Italy and India.  We’ve welcomed old friends – from far and near – and made new.  I’ve even been surprised by university friends, neither of whom I’d seen since those days, who came to McGregor – especially for Sunday Supper.  That was a trifle nervewracking, I confess.  Then they recommended to friends, Sunday Supper @ The Sandbag House.  And the friends came.

The lovely notes that folk leave are a delight and add to my general enjoyment of cooking and feeding people.

Not long into the journey, friend and photographer, Selma decided that she wanted to document (her word), a Sunday Supper @ The Sandbag House.  Her photographs are infinitely better than I could have wished, given my lack of experience, then.  We did have great fun and, I have forgiven her:

I don’t want to be in front of the camera, I whined.

You won’t be, she assured me, batting her blue eyes at me, smiling broadly.

Well.

She lied

All photos in this collage and the header image: Selma

I’ve learned

I have learned a great deal from Suppers @ The Sandbag House.  Not least that we can do it, and I have learned that I can do things I never thought I could.  Don’t get me wrong, I have most definitely not morphed from being a home cook into a chef, but there is truth in the old adage, practise makes perfect.

At the beginning, not only do I like doing pretty tables, but I figured that if the tables were pretty enough, people would forgive the food.

Bottom left and top right photos: Selma

Like wine and cheese do, I’ve improved over time

Perfection has not been realised, but there is most certainly a signficant improvement in things like desserts – never my forté – and how they are presented.  I discovered that I can bake and make mousse.  Panacotta’s next.

The other thing I’ve learned, is how to better manage portions and plating.  I’ve gone from slopping things about (or over diners – which nearly happened when we had a group of 10!), and serving vegetables in side dishes that don’t get eaten (and wasted), to plating entire courses.

And now

As we enter year two, I also hope to resume posting more regularly.  I have been bloggin elsewhere and various developments in the last few months have enabled me to consolidate most of my blogging activities.  Virtually all have been on the blogging-cum-social crypto platform, Steemit, and/ or on to that platform via other applications like Instagram, as well as, now, WordPress.  On the blog roll, there are posts that deal specifically with events there, which also explains the guff at the end of this (and each) post and which you are more than welcome to ignore – or not.

Sorry

Also, as I go through the process of updating posts from the early days, to this now self-hosted site, I apologise belatedly, and in advance, for the spam that email followers may get in their inboxes.  It will be sporadic (and probably herald a “virgin” post, as I will do this as and when I get the opportunity.

I am back

So, for those who have kindly told me that they’ve missed my blogs, I’m back!  Do browse through the blog menu to see if there is anything earthshatteringly interesting that you’ve missed, and which was published elsewhere.

Until next time
Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

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