Wednesday, October 31, 2007

anecdote and architecture.....

An Anecdote........
A post by David in Australia reminded me of an incident that happened near our smallholding a few years ago. Police were chasing a little VW Golf full of suspected stock thieves, and when they pulled them over, all but one fled into the surrounding bush. They thought at first the culprit must be drunk, just sitting there on the back seat, until they looked closer and saw that it was a sheep wearing a hat and coat. True story, gotta love Africa!

Inspiring Architecture #3

Ok now I want to introduce you to a gracious old city lady (in contrast to her rustic country cousin who you met yesterday.)

The Ann Bryant Art Gallery in East London started life as a gracious double-storey Victorian home in the centre of town. Just minutes away from the hustle and bustle of commerce is the tranquil tree-lined suburb of Southernwood, where the gallery is located.

The lovely old building, with its white walls and a green corrugated iron roof, is home to many of East London's famous works of art. Built in 1905 for Arthur Savage, the house was bought two years later by East London businessman, AE Bryant. He added land to his original purchase, so that the property covered a whole block from Belgrave Road to Oxford Street. Both Bryant and his wife, Ann, were art lovers and between them built up an enviable collection of mainly British or European artists from the 18th and 19th centuries.

In 1946 Ann Bryant donated the house, known as "The Gables", and her valuable art collection to the City of East London to be used as an art gallery. She asked the council not to change the house so that its Victorian style and elegance was retained. After her death, the gallery was renamed the Ann Bryant Art Gallery.

Alongside the main house is the Coach House, where visitors can buy light lunches and teas, sitting outside and enjoying the dappled sun through the magnificent trees in the well kept gardens. This building, originally stabling for the family's horses and coaches, now houses the more modern exhibitions. (This is where I am currently exhibiting, but more about that later.)
Look how stunning the jacarandas and lilies were last week. (Jacaranda is indigenous to South America, but graces many South African cities. As it flowers before the new leaves start to sprout, the effect of purple flowers against stark branches is breathtaking, as is the subtle honey scent. When the flowers drop, they form a sweet smelling purple carpet and walking on it is a heady experience!)
The scented and colourful gardens provided a very warm welcome into the entrance foyer of the coach house, so I continued the theme by making a big flower painting the first thing visitors would see.
I particularly love all the loving attention to detail that went into buildings like this... everywhere you looks, you see signs of the artistic pride that the builders took in their work. (The guys who sling up mushrooming low cost developments these days could really learn a thing or 2!)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

inspiring architecture #2

Hi, well my feet have more-or-less settled back on terra firma, for a short while at least.

And I have so much to show you, I don't know where to start. Somehow I wasn't in the mood to do it logically and start at the beginning, so instead, I'll share a couple of shots of the forest cottage we stayed in this weekend. We took Grandpa and Yvonne, as well as Max's sister there to celebrate his 80th.
Here is the man of the moment... Happy Birthday Grandpa John, we love you lots!
Unfortunately only one night could be squeezed out of our combined insane schedules, but it was such fun. And we fell in love with the place. Max and I will definitely go back sometime, when we can spend a while and really make the most of the peaceful forest atmosphere!
The place is called Eden's Touch Guest Farm, and cottages we stayed in were two semi-detached units, which were remodelled from an original 110 year old farm cottage. One of the old walls was left unrenovated, to show the clay and straw bricks that had been used, and the flaking mud/plaster interior of the wall.
The old fireplace remains....
but look how cleverly it has been used inside, as a hand-made walk-in bath for 2, complete with candles for that romantic atmosphere!

I loved the way it was done with a combination of rustic finishes and textures, combined with luxury touches like the great shower roses and high pressure geysers, which ensured that a shower was not just a way of getting clean, but an EXPERIENCE!
Picture this, standing in the large glass enclosed cubicle, being pounded in a hot water massage, and gazing through the picture window overlooking a private courtyard, complete with sawn logs and old farm equipment positioned so as to form sculptural elements... I just love that, taking the everyday and making it into a statement.

Everywhere you look, there are elements of the building that have been created to play with light and shadows, so that plain walls become canvasses for nature to play on....

and I loved the mosaic details everywhere, which added to the feeling that the place had been lovingly hand-crafted by someone who cared.
and I just have to go back when it is less of a rush, and wallow in this splash pool, with just a short stretch of lawn between me and the forest! The string chair was so comfortable I didn't want to get out of it ....... (not that it was that easy to be honest!)
I even got inspired to do a little painting of the forest, as I sat on the steps of the patio, after breakfast.... it was great daubing away, with everyone relaxing and doing their own thing, some strolling in the forest, others sitting around chatting.....
And judging by how wonderful the forest is, I think there are lots of peaceful weekends and tree paintings to follow...... (hopefully!)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Skywatch Friday 2

Since I started this series last week with a reflection, I may as well continue in the same vein... this time the sunset seen in my rear view wing mirror while travelling home from Knysna. How do you drive and take a picture like this at the same time? Don't ask, sort of fits into the category of "do as I say, not as I do'!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

cheers dears, for a bit...

I'm going to be a bit scarce for the next few days. I'm off to East London early tomorrow, to take my paintings and hang them, in preparation for the opening of my exhibition on Thursday. I realise it is not going to be possible for you to get there but here is your invitation anyway!

When I get back on Friday morning, Max's sister will have arrived from Durban,

just in time to meet miss Milly, before her mom and dad whisk her off to live in Uganda on Saturday morning :( . Then this weekend we will all head off along the coast to celebrate grandpa's 80th birthday... so bye for now, see you next week!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

7 strange things

This one has been doing the rounds for ages, I keep meaning to get to it. Shirley tagged whoever wanted to do it, so here goes. I have a no tag policy on this blog, so if you want to do it, cool, if not, cool. Just let me know if you do because I’d love to see yours.

7 little known facts about me….
1. I am not particularly freaked out by snakes, but I am horrified by frogs! (teeny tree frogs, and the little stripy Clicking river frogs with pointy noses that we have in our garden are exceptions) but the rest give me the willies! I know they are harmless, but they still creep me out. Ian once collected some of the big flat slimy ones that we call ‘platannas” here and put them in my freezer to use as fishing bait. I didn’t know they were there, and pulled them out of the packet thinking they were chops. Let’s just say he was a little unpopular!

2. I used to work at a brewery doing chemical and microbiological analysis in the quality control department. (I got 2 free crates of beer a month, Max’s friends used to say I definitely couldn’t marry him for his money, so he must have married me for my beer!)

3. When I was a baby, in Capetown, I had a nanny called Rosy. She used to call me ‘little miss buttons’ because I was fascinated by buttons. I still like anything dotty… go figure!

4. I could swim before I could walk, (both before I was 1.) My mom taught me because they spent a lot of time around water and she wanted me to be safe.

5. I used to specialise in decorative paint techniques and painting murals. When my mom was in hospice, her room looked onto a blank wall, so a friend and I painted a mural on it so she, and those who used that room after her, would have something interesting to look at.

6. My family tree on my dad’s side goes back to Lady Jane Grey and King Henry 7th. (They would be mortified to have such an anti-royalist, anti-authoritarian slob in their line, but hey, you can’t choose your family!!)

7. When I was 21, I went to the Chobe Game Reserve in Botswana, and Liz Taylor and Richard Burton were there for their honeymoon after their 2nd marriage. When I went down to breakfast I walked right by her, but I didn’t stop or even show that I recognised her, I think celebrities must crave anonymity sometimes so I respected her space. She just looked sad and middle aged to me at the time.

There you have it.

And by the way ............
WELL DONE BOKKE ............. you did us proud!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

rugby madness.......

There is an electric atmosphere in South Africa today..... traditionally when South Africans get together to watch rugby, it is mandatory to eat vast quantites of Naartjies, Droe Wors and Biltong. OK, let me translate, for the uninitiated, that means Tangerines, dry sausage (a specific blend of spices makes them uniquely South African,) and dry salted meat, the US equivalent is beef jerky. Well the stores have been cleaned out, not a bit to be found.... as the country makes important preparations for tonight's World Cup final against England!

If you have been reading Max's blog, you will have seen some awful gloating going on (I mean REALLY, how insulting putting a ginger pussycat in to depict the English Lions!!!! he he.) I suspect that if the Springboks don't bring home the Cup tonight, you will see a nation in mourning, and sad scenes as grown men cry!

It is hilarious driving around, flags everywhere and "go Bokke" written on the sides of cars (even a rather smart beamer had been suitably decorated, but sadly Max was driving and couldn't catch a photo!)

You know someone takes the game seriously when they are willing to tape a springbok onto the bonnet of their precious car, even at risk of stripping the paint later!

Even the littlest people have flags on their wheels!........
So we wait with bated breath for 9pm tonight, and in the meantime, the cry of GO BOKKE rings around the country!
(I might add that we are still experiencing major power shortages and load shedding, and we have been advised to turn all other geysers and electical appliances apart from the TV off, to avoid blackouts during the game. There is such excitement about the game that I suspect, if there are outages, heads will roll at ESKOM, our para -statal power supplier!)
Tonight, if you watch the game, and see the full stadium, take a careful look at that sea of humanity.
The stadium seats 80,000 people.
Just to give you a visual image to bring home the message of how serious our crime problem is in this country, double that amount of people have been murdered here in the last 5 years! (And this is a democratic country in a state of peace, not a war zone!!!) So that should give you an idea of what I have been blathering on about ....
I just wish there was a way of getting this message to our State President tonight as he sits there watching the match..... If he looked around, and saw a visual image to bring home the enormity of what is going on under his leadership, he might stop running around the world talking about peace, and do something concrete about his own people who are dying like flies!
While the nation watches the match tonight and gets so hysterical about the result, several more South Africans are going to die. Will we even hear about them? Yet more proof that our priorities are really upside down. It is a mad world!
(I hope all this ranting about crime doesn't give you the idea that I am one of those die-hard whites who are unable to accept the new democracy in this country... that is so far from the truth. I love this place and am very positive about it, but I also think that there are some serious changes that need to be made to improve it, and addressing the unacceptable crime situation is the main one.)
So after that sobering thought, there's nothing like a bit of comfort eating!
Who's for Yorkshire Pudding? I must thank Denise for the recipe, and even photos of how to make it!
I even made a gluten and dairy free version for K who has horrible allergies. The finished thing isn't beautiful, but it was delicious. Thanks Denise.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Skywatch Friday

Following a link from Ruth's post to Strolling through Georgia, Dot has started a new blogroll, called Skywatch Friday. Check out her stunning photo of the moon behind clouds!

As I seem to have enough sky photos to last well into the next millenium, I thought it might be fun to join in, so here is my first one, and it is a bit of a cheat, because it is the sky reflected in a window, rather than viewed directly.

Sunset at Homeleigh farm, Port Elizabeth.

Not -so - Lucky Dube

As most of us use our blogs as personal spaces in which we reflect our interests, pre-occupations, philosophies and lives, it is not altogether surprising that crime rears its ugly head quite often in my blog. (Not by choice really, just by default, because it is such an integral part of life in South Africa.)

Well today all the radios and television are paying tribute to Reggae musician Lucky Dube, who was murdered in Johannesburg last night, in front of his children, in a botched car hi-jacking.
It is a tragic waste of yet another life, in this case a famous and talented one. It is going to mean devastation, and trauma for his loved ones, and sadness for his many fans. There is a sense of national outrage about the incident.
To quote from a report posted 2 hours ago by AFP
"President Thabo Mbeki was among those who paid tribute to Dube, calling him "a really great South African artist", while his killing reignited debate about the levels of crime in the country.
The award-winning artist, who recorded more than 20 albums in a career spanning two decades, was gunned down at close range on Thursday night as he dropped his young son off at a relative's home in the suburb of Rosettenville. The child had just got out of the car when unknown men approached him, trying to hijack the vehicle. He was shot and he died on the scene.....
Fellow musician Mzwakhe Mbuli, one of the first people on the scene, said the music industry has been robbed of a legend. "I am devastated ... out of words," Mbuli told AFP. "For me it's cold-blooded murder, until investigation proves me otherwise. Crime is out of control. Where is this country heading to? We really need divine intervention," he said.........
South Africa is one of the world's most crime-ridden countries, with nearly 20,000 murders recorded in the last year.
Dube's killing was widely condemned by politicians and prompted calls in some quarters for the restoration of the death penalty. "
Our regional radio station played one of his songs this morning, with very apt and ironical words........

it is called TAXMAN,
"I pay my gardener
To clean up my garden
I pay my doctor
To check out da other ting
I pay my lawyer
To fight for my rights
And I pay my bodyguard
To guard my body
There' s only one man I pay
But I don' t know what I' m paying for
I' m talking about the taxman x3
Chorus: (x4)
What have you done for me lately
Mr taxman
You take from the rich
Take from the poor
You even take from me
Can' t understand it now
I pay for the police
To err..I don' t know why
'Cause if my dollar was good enough
There wouldn' t be so much crime
In the streets
They tell me you' re a fat man
And you always take and
Never give"
Good question, Lucky, and prophetic too, in the end, what has the taxman (and the civil servants who are paid from your taxes) done for you?
But I must admit, sad as this is, I am wondering, why is there such a song and dance when this sort of random violence hits a celebrity, but we never get to hear about 99% of the similar incidents that are going on here daily. Mothers of young children, businessmen, students, pensioners, all die just as needlessly, but disappear into history quietly, leaving behind their grieving families. And the government remains mute, and the courts continue to let rapists, murderers and armed robbers out on bail, and take years to bring them to justice (if ever.) And the most we ever get to hear about it is when they are reduced to statistics. (Just one of the 20,000 mentioned in the report...)

If it takes the death of a celebrity to make them sit up and take notice, well I suppose something good can come out of it, but it is a sad indictment on the powers that be in this country, and how little value they place on the average human life.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

dem stones, dem stones, dem dry stones....

While I was photographing jewellery recently, I also took shots of some of my treasured stones which haven’t found their way into jewellery, and at risk of boring you into a coma, I thought I’d show you some of them today.

But first a bit of background info………….
When I was 8 (1962, do the maths!) I had a friend who was much older (her name was Sally, she was a very talented artist, at that stage about 18 I guess) who was one of our neighbours in Harare, but moved to Zambia, and she sent me a bundle of stones in the post. Thus was born a passion for geology which has stayed with me ever since. I even did Geology as a major at University, although I never finished my degree.

From the time my interest was sparked by that parcel, I avidly collected stones. Zimbabwe was a great place to pursue such a hobby, because it is extremely rich in minerals and gems, so it was a happy hunting ground for me. Over the years, I tortured my poor father by insisting on loading his car with rocks at virtually every stop on every journey, and the family became accustomed to travelling with their feet surrounded by my treasures!

When I was in high school, I organised my collection into a cabinet that dad made for me, and entered it into the Young Scientist’s Exhibition, where it won an award.

However, for many years we had a bit of a nomadic existence, first with my trips to South Africa for University, and my parent’s frequent moves from house to house, and later as Max and I got married and moved frequently during the war, and later emigrated to South Africa, finally settling in Port Elizabeth. Throughout this time the heavy and bulky collection was hauled around in boxes from place to place, treasured but gathering dust. Finally when we settled on the smallholding, I revived the display, and they lived in a cabinet for a while.

By this time (mid 80’s) my son Ian was best friends with Vaughn, who I mentioned in the BLING post, and Vo had a consuming passion for geology from an early age. We used to bore everyone to death raving about some nondescript little brown rock, which nevertheless held endless fascination for us rock-hounds.

To encourage him in his interest, I weeded out just 1 or 2 real favourites from my collection to keep, and gave Vaughn the rest. He subsequently added to it throughout his teen and University years, and now has a really spectacular and comprehensive collection.

He is married now, and at the moment he and his wife Vicky are also doing the nomadic thing as he pursues his Geology studies around the world, but hopefully one day they will be settled and in a position to display the collection as it deserves.
Just so you can put a face to the name, here is Max reading a speech written by Ian at Vaughn’s 21st, with Vo looking all bashful next to him. Because Ian was flying somewhere in Darkest Africa at the time, and couldn’t be there, we printed his face on the back of the speech, so that it would seem like he was there as Max delivered it.

The reason I am mentioning Vaughn (apart from the fact that I miss him and thought I’d introduce you to my other son!) is that he is responsible for giving me some of the following stones.

So here are a few of my non-jewellery treasures…………..

Alexandrite is now very rare and hard to find. Since I was a little girl, I have wanted one, because I was intrigued by this page in one of my books….
I found the idea of a mineral that changes colour depending on the light source so fascinating. Anyway, a couple of years ago, as a goodbye gift when he went overseas, Vo gave me a piece of Alexandrite! It is in its raw state, so the colour shift is not as dramatic as when it is facetted.
It is also quite small (about 4-5 mm diameter) so very hard to try and photograph, but when enlarged you do get the idea of the green showing through the purple in daylight, and the redder purple in tungsten light.

Flourite, fluorspar. This mineral has a cubic crystal structure, and comes in a wide range of colours from yellow through to purple. When it is purple it is called Blue John. I have always adored crystals, because when you stand on the brown solid earth, it is so amazing to imagine hollow caverns under your feet, lined with colourful translucent crystals in perfect shapes.
Here is a cluster of very pure quality crystals,
and a less pure but large single crystal.

Some crystals are not particularly rare, or perfect in shape, quartz is found in vast areas and is a major component of rocks like granite, but what makes this piece special is that it contains inclusions of native copper (copper in its metallic state.) Also sometimes the excitement of finding a special piece and picking it up yourself makes it special to you (as opposed to buying a specimen from a rock shop.)

Max and I spotted this one near the dam wall of Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe, on the first trip we took back there after we had emigrated to South Africa, so it is also quite sentimental for us.

And here is another piece of quartz, with an aqumarine crystal embedded in it.

As you know, after the bling post, the thing I am the most passionate about is Opals. In my jewellery I have the black Australian opal, but none of the paler milky opals. When Vaughn went to visit his gran in Australia, he got this one for me.
Even in its raw state, the play of light and shifting colours are clearly visible, you can imagine how it would come to life if polished.

Another very special opal is the Mexican fire opal, this one was given to me by my step-dad, Aubrey, who also has a lovely collection (in fact he is a magpie, sorry, I mean collector of note, antiques, crystal, coins, stamps, old firearms, silver, porcelain, clocks, you name it …..)

By coincidence, opal also happens to be my birthstone, which is cool. The other one is Tourmaline. This mineral usually occurs in needle shaped crystals, and is commonly black, but there is also gem quality in blue, green and pink. The most wonderful one is watermelon tourmaline which, as you might guess, is pink in the centre and green on the outside.
I love this piece of quartz with needles of tourmaline embedded in it.
Another treasure from Vaughn and his wife Vicky is this piece of volcanic lava. It was collected at great risk to life and limb, in South America, when they were very honoured to be given permission to hike to the rim of an active volcano. It erupted while they were there, raining down rock and lava, scary stuff but their photos are spectacular!

Then there is this nondescript looking rock… nothing fancy, but its claim to fame (and a place in my display cabinet) is that it is from Antarctica, which as you probably know by now is my dream destination.

I showed you my blue tiger’s eye ring and pendant the other day…. I have 4 types of tumbled tigers eye… clockwise from bottom left, golden tiger’s eye is the well known one, blue is called Cat’s eye, red is called Hawk’s eye, and there is also green tigers eye.

Finally, if semi-precious stones interest you, and you ever find yourself in Capetown, there is a shop called the Scratch Patch which you would love…. The whole floor is literally covered in tumbled stones like this, and you pay for a container that you may fill, you sit amongst them and scratch for ones that appeal to you… great fun!