Twenty-one Years, Twenty-two Turkeys and a lifetime in between

This Christmas we did our twenty-first turkey together our Weber kettle braai.  It might be the last.

Twenty years ago, before I met The Husband, I lived in a little cottage in Cape Town.  My kitchen was grandly equipped with a TV grill (who remembers those?), a borrowed electric frying pan and a counter-top two-plate oven and stove combination.  That year, I moved out of the house I had shared with the ex-husband-to-be, leaving a kitchen I loved.  Except for the “moaning minnie”, more usually known as a lazy susan, in the corner cupboard.  Anyhow, as usual, I digress.

Back to my little cottage of which I have fond memories but no photographs – no digital cameras then, let alone cameras on brick-sized mobile phones – so your imagination will have create its own pictures from my recollections.  Even though my culinary exploits were seriously restricted by the limitations of the equipment at my disposal, I managed to have more than the odd dinner party.  The menu, however, could never include a Sunday (or any day) roast of a size that might feed five, let alone the proverbial five thousand.  As Christmas approached, I realised that I had a problem.  A big one:  the turkey.

I was determined that my first Christmas as a happily single woman would not only be in my home, but that, come hell or high water, it would include a turkey.  Homecooked.

Bear with me as I digress.  Again.  Necessarily.

Another challenge I had to confront, also of a culinary and entertainment nature, was a complete dearth of the accoutrement required for a braai (barbecue).  Sacrilege in any self-respecting South African’s home.  For the odd occasion when I did want to braai, I was able to borrow from longsuffering and supportive friends and pay in kind, i.e. with a space in which to braai, eat and party.  We had lots of those.  Of course, I got to clean up;  a happy trade-off.

I needed both an oven large enough to accommodate a turkey. And a braai.

Discovering the Weber

My first real memory of the Weber kettle braai goes back to the late 1980’s, early 1990’s when I still lived in Johannesburg.  It was being touted as the new, next best thing.  Especially for roasting whole chickens.  In those days I lived on my own, and truth be told, rarely ate meat.  That, and living in an apartment with a very small balcony, meant that space – especially outside – was at a premium, all of which conspired against the braai.  I do, however, remember an excellent meal with a friend, not long before I moved away. Yes, it was the ubiquitous chicken and again, yes, it was in a Weber.  Not long after that, I left Johannesburg for the Eastern Cape to join the-then-not-, and future-ex-husband-to-be.  Thenceforth, and ‘till my new life as a gay-divorcee-to-be, and the turkey conundrum, I hadn’t encountered the Weber again, or given it even a passing thought.

Fast-forward five or so years and I had to make a plan.  I was already self-employed and those who know anything about self-employment and consulting, know that it’s neither glamorous nor lucrative, particularly when your clients are non-profits in the post-school education and training sector.  Add a dose of starting-from-scratch, and there not much in the budget, so when a project on which I had been working suddenly yielded a windfall – in November – the shopping list of essential nice-to-haves included one Weber kettle braai.  After all, a turkey is just a big chicken, isn’t it?

So, I went shopping:  it had to be the big one, i.e. the 57cm job.  Duly purchased, it came home and was assembled and instantly tested.  It was beautiful and it worked.


The acid test would be the turkey and, lo and behold, it worked.

The next twenty – years….

Not long after that, I moved into another cottage and of course Weber came along.  It became the preferred cooking mode for braais, roast chicken and, for The Husband and I, a particular leg of lamb.  It was his first visit to my home, introduction to my parties, and the cooking of that leg of lamb, his first introduction to the wonders of the Weber.

That happened in December 20 years ago, but neither the month, nor the Weber saw a turkey even though it was safely ensconced in the deep freeze.

Therein lay the rub.  Said turkey had to be addressed:  it could not live in the deep freeze until the following Christmas.  As it happened, somewhere between that leg of lamb and Easter of the following year, The Husband and I had become “an item” and we decided that the turkey had to be dealt with.  It could not, as an erstwhile friend had suggested, that January, be a late Christmas celebration.  It just couldn’t be.  The notion made me feel ill.  That Christmas was one I shall never forget;  it had not been just sans turkey, but it was sans my mother, and had been spent with my grieving father.

I’m not sure if you have noticed that the average size of turkeys has shrunk over the last twenty-odd years which, my former poultry farmer husband confirms, is a function of the market and the demand for more tender meat.  Anyhow, that turkey 20 years ago was still of the larger variety and when there are just two of you, a lot of turkey can be bit too much of a good thing.  So it had to be shared.  Over Easter, the weather in Cape Town is usually nothing short of spectacular.  It’s not too hot and although the South Easter can howl, it’s less likely then, than in late spring and early summer. It’s a great time of year to entertain outside (and visit Cape Town and the Winelands) and as my “new” cottage was as spatially challenged as my previous one (and current kitchen), most entertaining had to be al fresco.

The Weber’s second home and the first shared with The Husband.

Invitations extended, our attention turned to the turkey.  As anyone who’s cooked a turkey knows, it’s not just a case of taking it out of the deep freeze to thaw; it cannot thaw too quickly – it’s fowl after all and can attract all sorts of nasties.  This means that one lives with a dead turkey for quite a while.  We decided that said turkey would be marinated in, among other things red wine (of course!) which meant it would have to be turned and cosseted.  In the process, The Husband (then not) named that turkey, Fred;  thenceforth, every turkey that we have cooked, has been named Fred and cooked on the Weber.

That was the beginning of The Husband’s epiphany.  It was not long after this that he became not just a Weber convert, but a Weber advocate.  In the next two decades, the main course virtually every celebration, not to mention innumerable gatherings as well as meals for just the two of us, have been cooked on that Weber.  Fish and fowl, animal and vegetable.

Weber moved to six houses with me, five with him, and from Cape Town to McGregor.  It has lived under cover, in the elements and now in its advanced age, in the shed, protected from the heat, hail and other elements that McGregor endures.

Christmas 2018

In 2018 we did two Christmas turkeys because we did a Christmas in July as part of our Sunday Supper offering.  There have also been years that we have done more than one turkey over Christmas – as a contribution to someone else’s meal.  Every year since 1998, bar 1999 when my mother died, a turkey has been prepared in the Weber and eaten at our table – shared with waifs and strays, friends and family, and friends who are family.

Fred XXI ready to go: stuffed, trussed, “hat” on, and finally, Weber’s lid in place.

Although we have now built an enclosed braai (room) which is used at least weekly, our now very delicate and well-worn Weber is still used for every roast that we do – not just turkeys and chickens.  Roasts for Sunday Supper are always done on the Weber and our guests always comment that the smoky flavour adds so much to the meal – which includes the gravy which is made in the drip tray which I deglaze with various liquids.

Roasted pork neck with gravy – all prepared courtesy of trusty Weber

The advanced age and delicacy of Mr Weber means that he may have to be pensioned off.  Bits that can be replaced, have been replaced; legs have been riveted back on.  Sadly, though, his belly’s wearing thin as are some other vital bits.

To get a replacement, we may have to hock the house!  The first one cost just under R700 and when I looked at the Weber website, a new one will cost more than R4,000.  Mr Weber will continue receive tender loving care until we have a stash of cash for a replacement.

There it is – until next time

The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

All photos (other than otherwise stated) including the photos of photos are my own.

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Songs of [My] Life

She arrived On a Jet Plane (John Denver) in Johannesburg, South Africa – a little Puppet on a String (Sandie Shaw) – and with a Locomotive Breath (Jethro Tull), took a train to Port Elizabeth.  There, she made friends with Jennifer Eccles (The Hollies) and another Jennifer, Juniper (Donovan), but didn’t find Atlantis (Donovan).

The house my parents built in East London 1968. Originally, it consisted of the gable, and the chimney and the two windows to the left. This photo was taken in 2010.

After a while, the family moved to East London where she started school and met Pretty Belinda (Chris Andrews) whom, full of Sorrow (David Bowie) she left behind, when the family moved.  Again.  At the new school, she was Only the Lonely (Roy Orbison), and just had to Get Down (Gilbert O’Sullivan), and face her Waterloo (Abba), until she headed to boarding school.

Hostel dance – 1976 – only just a teenager

Boarding school was all about putting Another Brick in the Wall (Pink Floyd) and avoiding the Bad Moon Rising (Credence Clearwater Revival) in the company of ZX Dan (The Radio Rats), yearning for an African Sky Blue (Juluka).  In those teenage years, she was a bit like Sandra Dee (Olivia Newton John) looking for Someone to Love (Queen).  Then, one day, her Rhinestone Cowboy (Glen Campbell) rode in, but he had a Heart of Glass (Blondie), leaving her with The Sounds of Silence (Simon and Garfunkel) in the Purple Rain (Prince), with the question, I want to know what love is? (Foreigner).

Finishing school, the Wild Thing (The Trogs), Like a Virgin (Madonna) headed to university.  There she found herself in the Eye of the Tiger (Survivor), saying, Papa don’t Preach (Madonna).  What a Feeling (Irene Cara), those years of Ebony and Ivory (Stevie Wonder) when, with a lot of De Do Do Do De Da Da Da (Police), Time after Time, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (Cyndi Lauper), Making Love out of Nothing at all (Air Supply), she had to sing the Redemption Song (Bob Marley).

Days of “study” and fun at university

Like Greased Lightening (John Travolta), Tragedy (The BeeGees) struck and it was time to start working Eight Days’ a Week (Beetles), joining the Men at Work (Down Under).  So, Here comes Tomorrow (The Dealians), and in the company of Sugarman (Rodriguez), her Last Dance (Diana Ross) took her to Meadowlands (Strike Vilakazi) where she did the Pata Pata (Miriam Makeba) and pleaded, Give me Hope, Joanna (Eddie Grant).  The odd Weekend Special (Brenda Fassie) didn’t go amiss, either.

After a while, it was time to Beat It (Michael Jackson), take the Paradise Road (Joy) and Go West (Pet Shop Boys).  Not the best decision because Another one Bit(es) the Dust (Queen): a Careless Whisper (George Michael) Tainted Love (Soft Cell).  This time, Weeping (Bright Blue), she headed to Mannenberg (Abdullah Ebrahim/Dollar Brand) and found That Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Queen) that was Simply the Best (Tina Turner).

It felt like Another Country (Mango Groove) in a Mad World (Tears for Fears) where Love is a Stranger (Eurythmics), Puttin’ on the Ritz (Taco), and so began another Walk of Life (Dire Straits).  It was totally Perfect (Fairground Attraction), for which there could be no Substitute (Clout) and best of all, in a Funky Town (Pseudo Echo) that would keep her Forever Young (Rod Steward and Alphaville).

That Total Eclipse of the Heart (Bonnie Tyler) didn’t last.  He was a Karma Chameleon (Boy George).  It was time to go Out there on My Own (Irene Cara), and with London Calling (The Clash), she headed for Barcelona (Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé).  From then on, it was going to be all Livin’ la Vida Loca (Ricky Martin).  It was More than a Feeling (Boston).  It was definitely The End of the Road (Boyz II Men).  She told him Don’t Bring me Down (ELO) and Jump (Van Halen).  She took The Long Way Home (Supertramp) after what felt like The Crime of the Century (Supertramp).  No such thing as Love over Gold (Dire Straits).

The Husband and I, exchanging vows – 2002

Then, My Oh My (Van Halen), completely unexpectedly, at the end of a long Telegraph Road (Dire Straits) she found A Groovy Kind of Love (Phil Collins) that was full of Honesty (Billy Joel) that had her Dancing on the Ceiling (Lionel Ritchie).  Jabulani (PJ Powers) – happiness was the word.  She had found her Charlie (Rabbit) and he wasn’t a Man on the Moon (Ballyhoo).  He did want to Kiss her all Over (Exile) on a Bed of Roses (Bon Jovi).

Post Script

This is my entry into this week’s Steemit Blogger’s contest.  I was hard pressed (notice the joke, those of you who remember vinyl) to choose just one.  I have favourites that apply at different times and others that I hated and now love.  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]), but I really couldn’t work it in, but couldn’t leave it out, either.  It is up there with another evocative song from my youth, Bright Blue’s Weeping.  Both are iconic songs of the struggle against Apartheid.

However, I have saved my absolute favourite to the end.  It comes from one of the world’s greatest guitarists and whose music underpins virtually every stage of my life – from my teens, and until now.  Why this song?  I have no idea, but it resonated for me the first time I heard it in the summer of 1980.  At the time, I did not know that it was Santana, or the name of the tune – it’s instrumental.  It haunted me for years, and one of the first records I ever bought, was the Santana album that included this song.  I now have it on CD – the same album – along with a number of other Santana albums that are all precious and special for different reasons.  One of the memories and experiences I shall treasure forever, was seeing Santana live in South Africa – I had waited nearly 40 years.  It was worth the wait and every penny.  Especially when he played this.

There it is – until next time

The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Mixing and matching – topics and metaphors

Sometimes it’s only a mengelmoes* that will do.
You’ve probably gathered, if you read a few of my posts that I
  • love to point and click my camera at things
  • have things that often take me away from my computer and @steemit
  • enjoy drawing connections and generally just gabbling away about things.  Some that weigh heavily, and other less so.

A while ago, I shared another eclectic set of photos that I had taken in and around the village where I live:  one of them features the reed and thatch work that is a feature of so much of the architecture**.  @lyncoyle’s post about the repair of their palama sparked a conversation about dying arts and the preservation of traditional crafts.  At the time I promised to share more about the original houses in our village, and particularly of a property where we would be doing a cleanup job.

The clean-up job included tidying up an overgrown garden as well as the cottage, itself, for viewing by prospective buyers.  As it would happen, the work in the garden ended up being done over the hottest days of the early summer.

One of the joys of living in this village is that one often gets to hear stories about the properties from folk who have lived and grown up in the area.  So it was with this cottage.  Piet is The Husband’s go-to person when he needs a semi-skilled worker.  A bit of context.  Piet is a lovable skebenga (rascal) who has a checkered history.  He is unreliably reliable, has a couple of children (that we know about!), one of whom finishes school this year and another who is about two… He’s also had brushes with the law, and paid the consequences.  The Husband and he have a warm, scratchy relationship that has grown over the last six or so years.  I too, am fond of him, and have been presented with indigenous plants for the garden. When I ask where they come from, I regret that I did.

Piet taking a little respite in the not-so-cool shade on a 40°C day

Anyhow, the point of this necessary digression:  Piet could tell us how long the fruit trees had been in that garden, which ones had gone.  He spent much of his childhood growing up in the house next door – behind him but out of sight in the photograph. He and his mates would help the “Auntie” who lived in this house to water the garden.  What is important to understand, is that watering the garden was (still is) a big issue when the leiwater ran and still does – every two weeks.  The village has a network of channels that leads irrigation water from the dam, through the village and into our properties.  Each is allocated a day and a time in that day when the sluice can be opened and water floods in.  This is what they would help with – making sure that the water was led into the garden and channelled where it was needed.  Their “pay”:  as much fruit as they could eat, and on hot days, paddling and playing in the lovely cool water in the sloot.  I have no doubt that they also got the odd slice of home-baked cake or biscuit for their troubles, too.

The leiwater channel in which Piet and his mates would cool their feet after the hot work of watering the garden. Here, the hedge in the process of being tidied up.

Anyhow, back to the cottage.  It dates back to the late 1880s and although it no longer has the original reed roof, it is still thatched and original sash windows have, at the front, been replaced with metal frames.  Probably in the 70s.

It does still boast the original fireplace and chimney, but with a brick cowl, along with the orignal sash windows that are still in place at the back.  As is the tiny window in the fireplace – so necessary in the heat of summer when cooking on the range must have been hell.

Also, you see part of the garden before it was tidied up, as well as a little glimpse of the view from the font of the house.
Inside, the cottage retains some of the original features like the reed ceiling and the beautiful wooden lintels over the windows and the fireplace in what was, originally, the kitchen.
The chiminee and the light fitting are non-traditional eyesores, I’ll admit, but I’m sure whoever buys the cottage will sort that.
Almost lastly, a before and after of part of the garden – taken from the back of the house, looking past the old kitchen.
The gardener in me knows that it wouldn’t take too much to get this space going again – there is much that would recover and reward with just a little TLC and water.
Finally, the mountain view I promised.  We are so lucky to have mountain views from virtually every point in the village.
Also in the picture, on the other side of the field, is another of the original houses, sadly in a state of disrepair.  It does illustrate two things:  an original reed roof and its construction of mud and/or mud bricks.  All these houses have to be whitewashed – that is the only “paint” that takes on the surface, and it also helps to keep the houses alive – they can’t be sealed because they need to breathe.  The handmade bricks comprise not just of mud, but also straw.  Here’s a pile of bricks left from a recent new-build-cum restoration in the village, and where The Husband and Piet were responsible for the fencing.
*an Afrikaans word pronounced memg-el-moose (like goose) which means something like a delightful hodgepodge of things
** for those wondering, I live in McGregor, not far from Cape Town in South Africa.  It’s in the Winelands and is the best preserved Victorian village in the province which is largely characterised by Cape Dutch architecture.
Getting back to my love of snapping away at things – often with my phone as was the case one of these photographs (the one that shows the exterior chimney):  I am a great Instagram fan.  I like its immediacy and the ease of uploading and posting on the run.  I also like editing features – less so than the filters.
Imagine my delight when I found out that it’s easy, once you know how, to simultaneously share your posts on to @steemit.  And to Twitter.  Although I’m not much of a Tweep.

Join Share2Steem here
All in the good crypto cause :smile:

Oh, and a bit of advice

You can use all your @steemit hashtags when you publish and then edit your original Instagram post to the ones that best work for you on that platform, which is much easier editing there than on Steemit. For me, that’s one of the weaknesses of @steempress – I am sure they will address that, though, as much has been done to better integrate the two platforms.

There it is – until next time

The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

If you’re a compulsive Instagrammer like me, Share2Steem and earn

Set it up here

Let me help you – for blog posts and any writing in English
Rates depend on the depth of edit required
DM me on Discord  @fionasfavourites#1035
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When the dog barked

Gale force winds are not unusual in South Africa, especially the Western Cape coastline, and into the Eastern Cape.  These winds are a feature of summer and winter, with the winter storms accounting for the Cape’s original appellation as the Cape of Storms.

We’ve had more than our fair share this year and wind, in combination with fire, can wreak havoc.  As it did two years ago on the Garden Route, and as it does every year in the townships of Cape Town, leaving thousands with just the clothes on their backs.  Eighteen months ago, a school friend, now living in the Garden Route area, had to evacuate her home.  She, her husband and their pets lived in their vehicles for days, fighting the fire around their home.  As I write, not far from their home, six fires are raging and one has destroyed more than 85,000 hectares of vegetation – much of it in the mountains.  According to this report, the plume of smoke is visible from space and the biggest fire has left a scar four times the size of that left by the 2017 fire.  Eight lives have been lost.

In my home town, Grahamstown, I heard that people were also being evacuated this morning, but mercifully, during the course of the day, there has been heavy and good rain, which has doused the fire – for the moment.  I remember, when I was about eight or nine, my father, then superintendent of the botanical gardens, joining the firefighters to fight a fire that raged for days – over those same hills.  I remember the constant smell of smoke and ash falling gently from the sky over the town and his red-eyed exhaustion.

I have had the privilege to work with firefighters;  one of whom was Fire Chief during that 2017 Garden Route fire.  Their courage, skill, knowledge and dedication in the worst of circumstances, is not to be underestimated, whether of wild, veld fires, house fires, or of those tragic fires in informal settlements, not to mention industrial and mine fires.

Until one has had one’s own brush with fire, one has little concept of how unpredictable and how terrifying it is.  Especially when the wind blows.

Two years ago this month, I had an unexpected request to work in a spot that meant a road trip and The Husband happily came along for the ride.  Well, actually, he did the driving.  I pointed the camera at various things.


Here follows one of my now not unusual digressions:  notwithstanding the drought, work and taking an almost-wrong-turning, it was a pleasant and pretty trip; spectacular in places.TreeWheatFieldNov2016

A lone tree standing out against the golden stubble of harvested wheat.


The bales of hay for much-needed fodder, waiting to be collected and stacked.


There are wind farms everywhere: on every road and virtually around every bend.  I can’t make up my mind if they’re fascinating, benignly waving their arms at one, or a blight on the landscape.  The turbines are huge.  In the bottom, left photograph in the collage above, you will see a turbine blade on the ground, bookended by the portable toilet and the picnic gazebo, which give one a sense of how long it must be:  turbines can have a diameter of 40 – 90 metres.

Our destination was the seaside, mostly holiday, village of Paternoster.


The sea was brilliant;  the colours, exquisite, but the wind howled.  The apparently calm sea was very deceiving.


Then, the morning we were to return home, a dog barked.  At 4 am.  It was a very agitated bark.  Neither of us went back to sleep, so an hour later we resolved to get up, pack and hit the road.

Good thing, too, because an hour or so after we were back in McGregor, we were fighting fires.  Literally.


The Husband, Jan Boer, and a few other locals monitored the fire that was across the road from our house.  As I was taking this picture and the one below, the wind suddenly changed direction and the fire jumped the road and the fence.  Into our plot and vegetable garden.


I turned tail and ran back home and unceremoniously dumped the camera.  Friends and neighbours arrived from everywhere, including friends en route to a wedding, not caring that they would be.

Our two hose pipes were already in use, dousing the flames across the road, so every bucket and hole-free receptacle was dragooned into service.  Cool boxes, catering equipment and dustbins were passed from hand to hand, and every available tap was used to fill them.


An hour and a half later (which felt like the longest day) after it jumped the road, the fire was under control, the fire service was on the scene, and the camera was retrieved from the tree.

The hose pipes came back blistered and burnt.  Small price.

The aftermath:  incinerated telephone lines, charred, smoked vegetables and homes unscathed.  Mercifully.  Dust, ash and moonscapes.


Within a week, even though no rain fell, the reeds in the vlei across the road, were sprouting.


Thanks to that barking dog, we had been home to fight that fire. A day I shall never forget.

Two years later, the drought has broken, but it’s dry again.  It’s the wind, that dries things out and as we have a Mediterranean climate, rain after October is rare, leaving the vegetation tinder-dry, not helped by unseasonally hot temperatures.

Eighteen months later, these photographs that I took in late winter, show not just the recovery from the fire, but also the drought.

Our garden is greener and the vegetable garden has crops in the ground.  The sad remainder of an orange tree that succumbed in the drought, though, is a reminder f the drought.  On the other hand, the vlei across the road, which had been denuded, was awash – not just with water, but the most magnificent showing of arum lilies that I have ever seen in my time in the village.

The power of nature to recover is not to be under estimated.

Nor though, is fire.

Post script:  Originally posted in January 2017 and updated;  photographs taken with a Samsung bridge and edited in Picasa.

There it is – until next time

The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Let me help you – for blog posts and any writing in English
Rates depend on the depth of edit required
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English help for bloggers, writers

I am constantly in awe of folk who write in English, when it’s not their mother tongue.  I know one other language, Afrikaans, which I was compelled to learn at school. I also had to do a one-year course at university – a requirement to be able to teach in the then South Africa.  Thirty years ago, I tried learning French.  I didn’t get very far because the tutor (a very gorgeous Frenchman) who had been allocated to our organisation, was allocated elsewhere.  The lessons were provided by the Alliance Francais for free, so I guess, he was sent to a paying client.  Thus ended the French lessons.

Having grown up in a household where neither parent spoke anything other than English, learning a different language was really difficult.  How I passed those courses, I’m blowed if I know.  I do know that I fouled (yes, do read another word that also begins with an “f” and ends with a “d”) up in the oral examination for my teacher’s diploma.  This was particularly embarrassing as one of the examiners was a family friend….

I now speak the language a little better because I live in an area where the majority of the population speak it, so I’ve had to learn how.  I still don’t write and read it very well.  I daren’t put anything out there without getting help from a first language, or competent, Afrikaans speaker.

Where am I going with this?

I am aware that there are many folk who blog in English, or would like to, but who are anxious about their capability, especially as there are trolls who are not very tolerant of their efforts, let alone forgiving of what are, often, minor errors.

I have been writing for as long as I can remember and have also helped innumerable people panel beat their writing – for research, reports, newsletters and just ordinary letters.  So if you, or anyone you know, needs help with this, I’d be happy to help – for writing on and/or off @steemit.  Rates will depend on the number of words and the type of help that is needed.

If I can help, comment below or contact me on Discord (see below) and I’ll get back to you, and please feel free to share.

There it is – until next time

The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa


Photo: Selma

Let me help you – for blog posts and any writing in English
Rates depend on the depth of edit required
DM me on Discord  @fionasfavourites#1035

Join us @steemitbloggers

Join Us On Discord

Now I know. It took thirty years

Before you read:  this is not a happy one.

Thirty – more – years ago, I was a volunteer for an organisation working with street children.  It was one of a few that operated in the area, and not the one with the highest profile.  Its genesis, I discovered, was a result of a spat between two volunteer leaders.  This meant that, at best, there was a scratchy relationship between the organisations which was sometimes counter productive.

Not long after I became involved, my organisation faced a crisis.  Of leadership and of funding and we were approached by a national children’s organisation with a view to a merger.  This was in the interests of both:  ours because it offered potential fnancial stability and for them, because of apartheid, itpresented a way of “legitimately” incorporating black children into their circle of care.  At the time, all race groups had to be cared for in separate institutions, but that’s not what I want to talk about.  I digress, as usual.

Back to the point:  because of the fragmented nature of care for street children, and in my role as chair of “my” organisation, I initiated a co-ordinating committee.  That, as happens when one works in a field, is when one meets fellow volunteer leaders.  One such was a Gauloise-smoking, whisky-swilling, Irish Jesuit.  Like many of his ilk, he was charming, gregarious, funny, ariculate and highly intelligent.

Then, one day, I heard from the Sister of Nazareth who was a member of our board, and who arranged that some of us meet Mother Theresa, that he’d been sent back to Ireland.

Just like that.

No one knew why.  Nobody was telling.

Then, last night, we were watching the news which is followed, on a Tuesday evening, by a current affairs show, Checkpoint.  Last night’s show was about male rape.  I had seen the promos which showed interviews with a man who had clearly been a street child – made good, happily – but who had been abused while in a shelter, by a catholic priest.

Although there had been a priest on our board of management, and who was a mentor to me, he never ineracted with the children in our project – a situation that was carefully managed.  He had headed a boys’ institution and had been accused of impropriety.  Accusations that turned out to be unfounded, we were lead to believe.  To make sure that the rumours were not perpetuated, this was the course of action the then Bishop had determined.  Neither that priest nor the bishop are with us any more.  The Bishop died of old age;  priest, murdered by parishioners known to him, and whom he had helped in the past, of money that he would have given them.

That was a necessary digression.  It illustrates the depth of involvement of the Catholic church in the street children movement in the 80s.  Many will know that there are caring orders, like the Sisters of Nazareth and the Dominicans, who provide care and education.  These are the orders associated with our organisation.  The Bishop was a Dominican.

So I watched the programme last night, quite confident that the priest mentioned was unlikely to have been my mentor;  I had been wracking my brain as to when this might have taken place and whom it might have been.  I have not had anything to do with the movement for more than 25 years, so it could have been anyone.

My horror, sadness and confusion remains.   The priest mentioned in the programme, is the Jesuit.  What is worse is that the email of apology, is an admission.

The full programme is in this video.

As you gather, I don’t quite know how to process all of this.  In light of what has emerged about abuse in the Catholic church – all over the world – and knowing the vulnerability of street children, have no doubt that it is true.  It does raise questions about my mentor and the way that situation was handled.  He couldn’t have been shipped off to Ireland because he was South African.  Born and bred.

If I have this swirling confusion, a knot in my stomach and am shaking as I write, I cannot imagine what the vicitims of such abuse and their families must go through.

A last thought:  while I cannot condone how the Catholic church and many other powerful institutions have covered up this type of behaviour, I do have great respect for those individuals who have carried out their vocations with love and integrity.  They and their work is besmirched by those like the Jesuit and his seniors who buried it, which makes them complicit.

Now I know why Bill McCurtain was sent back to Ireland.  I am so sorry.

Introducing the Godmother

Over the last week or so, I have been somewhat preoccupied, trying to help a friend sort out the bureaucratic snafu, I told you about here, and mused about whether a GoFundMe campaign was something to think about.

Well, since then, there have been some developments:

At the beginning of last week friends with premises and a licence came to the party – so to speak – agreeing that my friend could move her business into another licensed premises – rent free – until such time as the bungle had been dealt with.

So the week started on a positive and hopeful note.  But, as the cliché goes, it was too good to be true.  For various reasons the licencee, because of the death of his business partner (I wrote about it here), whose estate has not been wound up, cannot legally “add” Q to that licence.

News which arrived only after she had cleaned, tidied the garden and moved stock and furniture into the “new” premises.  So, after a week of no trade, she had to start exploring even more options.

She did.

To no avail.

The only glimmer of light, which we hope is the end of the tunnel, rather than the proverbial train, is that an industry watchdog has referred her to a deputy director in the licencing body.  However, by the close of business on Friday, she’d had no reply to her email, and the person’s direct line was permanently engaged.

In the meantime, and after Monday’s news, The Godmother swung into action.  The GoFundMe campaign has been launched and is here.  In addition to the chronology of events which I outlined in my previous post, it outlines the implications for Q if snafu is not sorted. And yes, in case you are wondering, the Godmother only swung into action with her full knowledge.

Please feel free to visit the campaign and share it as far and wide as you possibly can.

All income from this post will be donated to the campaign, so please upvote and resteem.   I will keep you posted about developments.

Finally, in anticipation, and as a token of thanks, here is our garden’s first tea rose of the season

There it is – until next time

The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

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Battling bureacracy – could a Godmother help?

So, here’s the first thing:

I worked in compliance – in the post-school education and training sector – for a long time.  My work involved helping providers become accredited in terms of the legislation which in turn necessitated the development of business plans, quality and policy and procedure manuals, not to mention the development of training and assessment materials.  I was also involved in setting up systems for auditing accredited entities, etc., etc.  I have also prepared more project proposals and tenders, filling in the requisite forms than I care to think about.

Each organisation is different and necessitates one doing it THAT way and filling in a GAZILLION forms.  Or, if I was on the other side of the fence, setting things up so that bureaucrats – not usually the sharpest tools in the shed – could do their jobs.  Without having to engage their brains.  I could wax lyrical about this, too, but I’ll save that.  The rest of this story speaks for itself.

I also worked as a volunteer leader in the sector for many years, including in the fundraising field and with street children at the height of Apartheid’s total onslaught in the 1980’s.  Simultaneous with that, my pay job was with an industry body – managing and administering committees and a bursary scheme.

As a consequence I know how to construct an argument to do battle and have a pretty good grasp of how bureaucracies work.  Or don’t.  Similarly, I also understand that there is – or should be – recourse and a process to follow if there is some sort of SNAFU.

The advent of democracy in South Africa introduced an entirely new approach to working with people, inherent in which is the principle of appealing a decision.  It’s embedded in the education and training system so that a student can appeal a result and has recourse through the system to its apex body.  I know, it is a requisite for any training provider and quality assurance body.  I helped them to put appropriate processes and tools in place.

A defendant in the criminal justice system can appeal to a higher court if s/he does not agree with a judgement; similarly for a traffic fine.

Debtors get periods of grace and/or penalties if they pay late.  Similarly, taxpayers could be prosecuted, but have the opportunity to defend themselves before it reaches such a drastic stage.

Surely the same principle should apply to the holder of all licences that are annually renewable?  Even motor vehicle owners have a month’s grace after their licences have expired and before they are fined.

Following the logic of these examples, one would think that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, wouldn’t one?

Well, clearly not.

A friend in the village who runs a small business – so small that it is owner-run and has no staff – was two days late in paying her licence.  She knew that it was overdue and when she paid, she paid an additional sum, in good faith, anticipating that there would be a penalty.  She had been told by the local inspectorate that if she paid and retained the proof of payment, everything would be hunky dory.

So it was, until she receives a telephone call SEVEN AND A HALF MONTHS after the payment was made.  The gist of the conversation:

“Your licence has lapsed because you paid late.

“Your payment, however, was only “posted” some six weeks after reflecting in the licensing body’s bank account.

“We will send you a form so that you can apply for a refund.

“You must now apply for a new licence.  From scratch.”

No, he was not kidding.

As of the close of business yesterday, she is cannot trade.

She has yet to receive the form that she’s required to fill in to get her money back.

And here’s the other thing:

This particular licence, from submission of the application to a decision, takes just shy of a year – if one is lucky.  While one is waiting for the outcome of the application, one is paying rent on premises and investing funds on fitting it out and all the time having to keep body and soul together.  If the type of business is dependent on the licence, that means that the owner must have significant resources or other sources of income to keep going.

A year with no income and no return on an investment?

What sane person or institution would back a business under those circumstances?

Making a living in a village is tough and when you have a micro, survivalist business, and no independent means, it’s even harder.  And to get shut down and lose your livelihood because of a bungle?

This brings me to the next thing.

My friend, we’ll call her Q, among others, often use me as a sounding board and for help cobbling ideas into a concept that can be written up and potentially put into action.  That’s all well and good, but most of us are in the same boat.  Not a lot of money to throw around and if I spend time on helping them, I’m not helping myself because I’m not earning.  Like all of us, I have bills to pay.

Could I go to a platform like GoFundMe and raise funds so that I can work with folk who would like to draw on my skills and expertise but can’t afford to?  The challenge, of course, is that some of the ideas may be hare-brained and never see the light of day, unlike Q who has a young and viable business, highly valued in the community.

Which brings me back to that situation.  Q has had to stop trading which means she loses more than just income – custom will go elsewhere;  she will have to continue paying rent and suppliers – or return the stock if they will take it.  And that’s just a start.

I think she should fight this, and she needs help from someone like me to work with her on it and possibly legal help, too.  Neither of us has the resources to take this on, nor do I have time to spend on it without remuneration.

Do you think that a GoFundMe campaign, to fund a Godmother, has merit for a project like this, and others, to get worthy and tourism-friendly initiatives off the ground in a village like ours?

There it is – until next time

The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

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Heritage food: my take

In South Africa, in September, we celebrate our combined heritage.  Like so many countries, we are a bit of a melting pot but in South Africa heritage is also the site of much contestation.  However, I won’t go into that, except to say that Heritage Day precipitates two things.  One is a public holiday and the other is South Africa’s shared love of gathering around a fire on which a meal is cooked.  Yes, the barbecue.  In South Africa, though, it’s the braaivleis* or shisa** nyama*** that is virtually universally traditional.  Needless to say, when this particular public holiday spawns a public holiday on a Monday, Sunday Supper needs to reflect that.  I had already been thinking about the menu, but had not come up with anything firm, when early in September, I get this direct message on Instagram:

“Are you by any chance doing lunch/dinner on Sunday 23 September.  Can you recommend a place to overnight in McGregor! Thought we would come and test your kitchen and catch up??”

Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather.  Ms Jolly Hockey Sticks, Dr Groundwater and I had all been – yes, you guessed it, again – at university together.  All of us in the Geography department and she and I in the same residence.  Other than bumping into her at a local market well nigh 20 years ago, and hearing Dr  Groundwater elucidate about the drought and his speciality on a local radio station, I had seen neither of them since those days; other than her following my Instagram account, we are not in touch.  The accommodation part was easy and within a couple of days, The Den was booked for them.

In addition to their advance booking for Sunday Supper, dear friends, Mr & Mrs Gummi, from Cape Town, had asked to book our Little Room and yes, especially so that they could be here for Sunday Supper.  Now, there is something you should know about Mr Gummi.  Not only are he and The Husband dedicated carnivores and bosom buddies who hail from the same part of the world, but Mr Gummi is a former restauranteur and chef.  We met him – and them – in his restaurant.  Now, it’s one thing having a casual braai or a dinner around the table in one’s home, and quite another when, so to speak, the boot is on the other foot:  there is just a little pressure.

Back to the menu.  Of course, it needed a heritage theme reflecting both South Africa and our Scottish roots. It is not practical to do a “common or garden” braai with my kitchen constraints and given that Sunday Suppers now have a set format of starter, main and sweet.  Two things that had been part of last year’s menu would feature:  the starter which had consisted of a paté made with local fish, and the sweet.

The final menu:

The two patés:  I cannot give you specific recipes for either, except to explain what they consist of and how I make them.

Angel fish paté

This is a paté usually made with a smoked fish (snoek) which is a rather coarsely textured, very bony, oily fish.  I prefer to make it with angel fish – the flavour is more delicate than the heavy smoked flavour of the snoek.  Either way, both fish are readily available if one has access to fresh fish or the sea.  We have, for years used the same fishmonger and on our most recent trip, stocked up.  Funnily enough, angel fish is one fish that benefits from being frozen.  Don’t know why.

I make the paté with fish that’s is left over from a main meal – usually done on the braai – cooked over hot coals, on the skin, not turned and basted with a mixture of olive oil, butter, parsley, garlic and lemon juice.  The Husband reckons he only knows how long to braai the fish for because I make just the right quantity of the libation.  I’m not so sure, but I’ll take it!

The cold fish is separated from the skin and flaked into a bowl into which a spritz of dry white wine is added, followed by a dollop of cottage cheeses, salt and pepper to taste, and finally, in this instance, wild garlic leaves and either chives or green onion tops.

All this is combined until the correct consistency is achieved – without mashing or puréeing – adjusting the quantities and the seasoning as you go along.  If you are in South Africa and using wild garlic (Tulbaghia), be judicious with the quantities.  It is very (the actual word begins with an “f”) strong and it develops over time, especially when combined with dairy.

Stash it in the fridge until you are ready to use it – either in a single receptacle or in individual dishes – depending on what you’re planning to use it for.

Homemade maaskaas (cottage cheese) paté with wild herbs

Making cottage cheese is easier than you think.  In South Africa, you can buy cultured soured milk.  I have, when I could get really, proper (how’s that for English) full cream milk, soured it and made cottage cheese from that.  Full fat milk is getting harder and harder to come by, so at the suggestion of a friend, cheated and bought the maas.  I treated it exactly the same way:

Put a colander into a large bowl to catch the whey and then line the colander with muslin.  Dump in the maas and tie up the muslin.  The whey will drain out and you will need to pour that away if it fills quickly (on to your pot plants or into the compost because it’s actually full of goodness).  It will need to hang for at least 24 hours, but better for 48 and you will have cottage cheese of the most fabulous creamy consistency to which you can add the flavourings you want.

The process followed for my first ever batch of cottage cheese. The first of many

For this supper, I added wild garlic and suurings known in English as wild sorrel.  I grew up eating these sour little leaves and flowers – in the Eastern Cape they are mauve and where I live, in the Western Cape they are yellow and flower in abundance in spring – especially this year.

Wild herbs picked from my garden: Oxalis, Tulbaghia and Portulacaria Afra (also known as spekboom or the jade plant)

A bit like the angel fish paté, adding the seasoning and flavourings is a matter of personal taste, remembering the caveat about the wild garlic leaves, and which applies just as much to conventional garlic.  When you’re happy, either serve immediately – the flavour is better at room temperature – or store until you’re ready to use.

Angel fish paté, maaskaas with wild herbs served with crostini

Springbok loin on the braai

The second course consisted of Springbok loin which had been rubbed in a mixture of spicy plum jam, Worcestershire sauce and olive oil to which I added a teaspoon of crushed coriander seed, a crushed clove of garlic and about a dessertspoon of fresh, grated ginger.  Having marinated for about 4 or so hours, the loins were braaied (grilled) over hot coals until they were medium rare, and then removed and allowed to rest.

Braaied Springbok loin

Some will say that this is too rare but remember two things:  venison is well matured which makes it dry and easy to overcook and secondly, as I have to keep it warm and avoid overcooking as I have to wait for diners to be ready for their main course, I elect to take the meat off when it’s under-done and allow it to rest.

Braaied Springbok loin served with roasted cauliflower and carrot, baby potatoes and spicy plum jam

In terms of quantities:  Springbok is a small animal and one loin serves about two people.

Fiona’s Scottish Milk Tart

The dessert, when I served it for the first time last year, was an instant hit and has become a regular feature of Sunday Supper menus.  It consists of the filling of a traditional South African melktert (milk tart) served with a side of Scottish shortbread in either a lovely little glass or, more prettily in my mother’s Royal Albert coffee cups.

Recipes for both the shortbread and the milk tart to follow in due course.

By all accounts, it was a menu and a meal that was a success!

Post Script

  1. Thanks to Buffalo Creek wines for the award-winning wine that was served with the meal.
  2. Special thanks to Ms Jolly Hockey Sticks and Dr Groundwater for coming to McGregor just for Sunday Supper, heading back to Pringle Bay the following morning, and to Mrs & Mrs Gummi for both visiting and their gracious patience!

* direct translation is “grilled meat” and usually shortened to braai pronounced “bry” – like “fry”

** shisa, according to an online dictionary, means to heat or to burn

*** nyama in many of the Nguni languages, including isiZulu and the one I am most familiar with, isiXhosa, is meat

There it is – until next time

The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

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Floundering or flying?

I have been blogging on one or other platform for going on six years, but I have been writing – in one form or another – virtually all my life, and more so all my adult life. Or wanting to. It was only when I started blogging that I really discovered two things: I could do it. People read what I wrote – even the things I thought others wouldn’t read. Then I had something reinforced: writer’s block is real and that sometimes it’s impossible to write through the block.
Then, in one of those funks, just last week, I wrote a post because someone wanted a recipe and, somehow, it just flowed. Was it that the blockage had been removed or was it the writing that did the unblocking? Or the thinking about the writing? Or the cooking?

That’s part of who I am, but only part. I have been, and still am self-employed and like most self-employed people, who do they really like doing what they are doing, am totally under-paid. Just over a year ago, no, nearly two years ago, I threw in the towel doing the work that had been my passion and bread and butter for more than two decades. I started a new business focusing on the village where we live.
McGregor on an overcast winter’s morning
It’s gaining traction, but not generating nearly enough income.
That is the other part of why I am here. I need to be earning more and have skills that are two-a-penny on other online sites and where my offering is considered too expensive. I cannot afford to offer my services at a cut-rate which effectively costs me to be there, so I’d rather take my chances on a platform like @steemit and Weku.
Besides, here I can write what I like, can’t I?
I guess that makes me a bit of a maverick, and it’s taken me more than 50-odd years to acknowledge that while I like working with people, in some circumstances, I am an unwilling team player, and that can be challenging.

Since I reluctantly and in a great deal of pain, chucked in that proverbial towel, I have had a couple of small projects that have helped to keep the wolf from the door, and have started doing things that I like, and which generate income. Cooking and feeding people is one. Every Sunday we open our home to the village and its visitors because there is no restaurant open. Sunday Suppers have become a “thang” as the following few photos show:

And then there’s the food – about which I also write.
For carnivores and vegetarians

I do all of this from our home where I live with The Husband and two cats who also feature in my writing from time to time.

There it is – until next time


The Sandbag House

McGregor, South Africa
Edited slightly after it was first published on Weku 26 September 2018, and is hipefully my first post on @steemit since Hardfork20

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