Friday, May 30, 2008

Skywatch Friday, still on the road!

Hope you are not already bored out of your skulls with our trip to Lesotho! On the way back, we took a different route back through the Eastern Cape. I never realised we lived in such a varied and picturesque province, it was a real eye opener.

It began raining as we stood in line at the Border Post to leave Lesotho, and continued most of the way to our next overnight stop. We travelled through quite a few mountain passes as we left the Mountain Kingdom and descended back to sea level, which gave great panoramic views of countryside and stormy skies.

Approaching Queenstown, all was serene, with a faint rainbow to mark the end of the rain.

Then only 10 minutes later, we rounded a bend to see these dramatic clouds, as the sun headed off over the horizon.

We got into town as it was getting dark, spotted a sign for a B&B, and followed it to a delightful place called Justine's, where a farmer's wife, well practiced in the art of gracious hospitality, has set up an award winning guesthouse. Our room had all the comforts we could want (at an extremely reasonable price) and breakfast the next morning was the kind of meal that leaves you feeling good all day!

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! And to see lots of fascinating skies, hop across to Tom's friendly spot at Wiggers World.

PS I just looked outside and had to add one more pic, because it is not such a shabby view from here either!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

this 'n that #?

Hi, it's been a manic time lately (where have you heard that before?) as I had to paint for 3 exhibitions opening within a few days of each other.

The first one, which opened last night, is a very popular annual event at the Cuyler Street Gallery. It is called the same size, same price, unsigned exhibition, and is exactly that. People love it and literally queue at the door for the opening, because you can buy work by a student, or a very well established artist, but as all works are unsigned, there is an element of taking a gamble about it. As the prices are set reasonably low, in relation to what a well known artist would charge (but probably higher than an average student would charge) this adds to the fun. If you really know your art, you can pick up a bargain from a well known artist, but if you make a mistake, you could be paying a premium for student work.

Then tomorrow a beautiful exhibition opens. It is being held in a private home, a recently built stunning house that really lends itself to being used as a gallery. The owner invited 5 painters and a ceramicist to exhibit, and I was delighted to be one of them, as I love the work of the others, and our work goes so well together. In addition, she has taken a musician under her wing, because he does not have enough money to continue his studies at University, but is really talented. So on Friday and Saturday evenings, she will combine the art exhibition with a music recital, which will be a benefit concert for this young man. We will have dinner and listen to him performing Classical Guitar works, with some of his fellow students.

Then next week an exhibition entitled "Beacons" opens at the Khune Boekkooi Gallery. It is a nice topic and I am having fun interpreting it in different ways.

Yesterday would have been my mom's 80th birthday. I am not usually one to mark this sort of anniversary or dwell on past losses, but yesterday I thought of her a lot. She died of lung cancer in October 2000, not too surprising since she smoked up to 2 packs of 30 a day since she was about 15 years old! She was a model in her youth, and was always very young looking for her age, and very elegant. She was amazing, when she was told she had inoperable lung and liver cancer, she said that was fine, she'd had a good life and didn't fancy getting really old. She went through all her things, and made sure that each person who was special to her (family and friends) got at least one of her personal items, such as pieces of her jewellery etc. She wrapped each one, and wrote little personal notes to accompany them. As time passed, she even decided how her funeral should be, and wrote a note for me to read to all her loved ones. To the very end, she handled the whole thing with her usual dignity and grace. She would have hated being 80! Happy birthday mom!

And tomorrow my 90 year old father arrives for a 5 week visit. I'm afraid he has not aged as graciously as mom did, and is extremely demanding and difficult, so I may be a bit scarce for a while! On the other hand, I might find the need to escape into blogland frequently.... we'll have to see how it turns out!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Felicity Update

It's hard to believe that 3 and a half months have fled by since a sick and scared little bundle of feline fur arrived in our care. It took a while for her to get used to people, having been abandoned on a rubbish dump when she was way too young to leave her mom, contracting feline sniffles, being rescued and spending a week in a vet's hospital having needles stuck in her and pills rammed down her tiny throat. Max did a post about her first day here.
We were a little hesitant about introducing such a vulnerable little creaure into our household, because our white cat, DeeDee is a complete and utter dragon when it comes to new kittens on her turf. And she is stone deaf, so you can't even shout at her when she is attacking them. She gave poor Fergussen a hideous time when he was little. But Felicity cat had to remain isolated for at least 10 days after arriving here, so that she did not infect our cats with her sniffles, and in that time she got quite bold.
We introduced her to Fergs first, and after a bit of a sulk on his part, they have become friends.
She now rules the roost, and yesterday I even came across her and DeeDee curled up together asleep on the couch, so I guess all is well!
She is at the gawky teenager stage already, and is growing into a very adorable but very stripey looking Siamese with a long body and short legs. And a giant personality! We are completely besotted.
As I try and type this, she is snuggling in her favourite place, in the crook of my left elbow, making it necessary for me to do everything with one hand. She is watching the movement of letters and cursor on ths screen with great fascination. Every now and then she can't resist the urge to take a closer look and I have to delete the extra words that result. Oh good, she's just spotted Max putting on his socks and gone off to attack them!

Saturday, May 24, 2008


In Port Elizabeth, we don't experience the clearly defined seasonal changes that occur in higher latitudes. There is a marked difference in the length of daylight between summer and winter, here at 34 degrees South, compared to the fairly even days I experienced growing up in the tropics (in Harare, Zimbabwe.) But we don't get wonderful Autumn displays, because it is too warm, we never get snow, and it is warm enough throughout winter that many plants continue to blossom, so spring does not arrive with the same drama as it does in colder climates.

However, that is not to say that there is a boring sameness about our weather. It is just not necessarily seasonal. It is a well worn old saying that in PE, you can get 4 seasons in one day.

As an example, let me share with you some pictures of sunrise two days ago, and sunrise this morning.

This was how it looked from our dining room window on Wednesday.
And here was the not too successful attempt at the sun showing its face this morning!
As you must know by now if you have been around this blog for any length of time, I adore this old church that is just down the road from us, and it features in many of my photos.

The bright patch you can see in the bottom right hand corner is a glimpse of the bay, with the dunes on the opposite side.

A few leaves are still clinging tenaciously to the plane trees in the park across the road from us, but winter is on its way!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Skywatch Friday ... Malealea, Lesotho

I guess, because we live on the coast, the air is relatively warm, and planes flying over us are usually at low altitude (mostly just landing or taking off.) So for us, seeing con-trails is a rarity. We were fascinated, while staying up in the high mountains of Lesotho, to see the sky constantly littered with con-trails , particularly around sunrise. From the directions of the lines, we could identify the Port Elizabeth to Joburg plane, Joburg to Capetown, as well as the Durban to PE plane. We particulary enjoyed the feeling of disjointed unreality it gave us, roughing it up in the isolated wilds with no phones or electricity, yet seeing all this hi-tech machinery scooting along above us, connecting hubs of industry and crowds. It made us even more grateful to be there, and heightened the feeling that we had somehow dropped off the planet!

Camping in Malealea, freezing our butts off in our ricketty tent, we woke up both mornings to wonderful skies, with a sunrise on one side, crescent moon overhead, and jets painting lines all over the place! Here is a selection of the variety we saw on those magical mornings.

Speaking of Malealea, if you want to read a really inspiring story, about a subsistance farmer who lived on a piece of land that was unusable because it was so badly eroded, and covered in huge bare gullies, and who turned it into a model of productivity, with no capital or farm equipment, just a vision and sheer hard manual labour, follow the Malealea link above.

In there, I mentioned that his fondest wish is to own a small old tractor, to help reduce the manual labour. I have had several responses, from people who are not in a position to buy one, but would like to contribute. I am in communication with Malealea Lodge, and awaiting a response so we can work out the logistics of how to go about it. I'll give you updates as we go along.

To see more wonderul Skywatch photos, visit our genial host Tom for a list of links.
Have a great weekend everyone!

Monday, May 19, 2008

And we finally made it across the border......

Here are some favourite shots of Lesotho. If I had to try and distil the essence of the country into 12 pictures, these might go a little way towards it. But there will be lots more. Malealea deserves a post of its own. And there are so many stunning skywatch shots to look forward to.

On the road from Tele Bridge to Mount Moorosi, one comes across the mighty Senqu River several times. It is beautiful looking down on the meanders far below.
Isn't this the most beautiful face, so full of wisdom and quiet humour? He was a lovely old man, who we gave a lift to into town one day. When the corrupt Policeman at a roadblock was trying to extract a bribe from us by saying that the bakkie was only licenced to carry two people, and that it was illegal to have the old man in the back, I asked him if he was seriously going to prosecute us for helping an old man up the hill. It must have shamed him, because he looked self conscious and waved us on.
Another friendly villager at the Moorosi Chalets.

A scene of the village at the foot of Mount Moorosi. It was from here that we parked the bakkie and walked up the mountain. I would imagine that it must make your day, walking out of your home to a view like that every morning!

No photo essay on Lesotho would be complete without a famous Basotho Pony. These hardy and nimble little ponies are incredibly tough and sure footed, traversing slopes that most mountain goats would think twice about. They are an indispensable part of rural life in this place of isolated villages, steep terrain and poor roads.

One thing which the people in Lesotho take for granted is their skill with stonework. It is such a natural part of their lives that they don't seem to see it as unusual. But to most of us, who don't live where there is an abundance of rock, it is, and so it was a delight to come across a bunch of stoneworkers preparing blocks of sandstone, all done laboriously by hand.

We adored the sunrises at Malealea, the crisp cold air and the warm first light were a winning combination.

And what a view to wake up to!

The road from Malealea to Mohale Dam took us up 3 spectacular mountain passes, until we felt we were sitting on top of the world.

The Mohale Dam and Katse Dam are part of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, which is part of a huge hydro-electric scheme. Very few parts of the country have any electricity, so it was a change to see giant pylons on the horizon.

And wherever you look, no matter how remote, look closely and you will spot a couple of huts.

The only thing that can be recommended about the Orion Hotel known as Mohale Lodge, overlooking Lake Mohale, is the view..... seriously it is a rip off staying at this seedy hotel, but the place is so remote that if you get there close to dark, as we did, you end up not having much choice. Be warned, give it a miss on your itinerary!

I'll show you around Malealea soon, that is definitely not a place you want to miss!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

some more favourite photos

Snow on the mountains between Barkly Pass and Barkly East

Fascinating ruins of stone dwellings in caves between Barkly Pass and Barkly East.

Wonderful sandstone formations between Eliott and Lady Grey

A delightful old church in Lady Grey

But we still haven't made it to Lesotho, next time, I promise we will have crossed the border!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

this'n that weekend ramblings

Well, it has been a fairly productive week. On the work front, I finally goaded myself back into the studio. I was having a spell of severe procrastination, and just could not seem to motivate myself to christen the new studio. I read a post by CJ in Scotland which pretty much exactly expressed what was going on, and so we made a pact to encourage each other to get going. It seems to have worked (thanks CJ, knowing you are accountable to someone does provide the needed shove in the right direction!!) It is quite gratifying that requests to exhibit at various galleries have been coming in, and I really needed to make a start, so it is a relief that when I did get in there, it really started to flow, and i have made a great start. I finished a large one and began 5 others, and also made frames for some of them. Will post pix on the art blog shortly!

On the health front, Max and I have been making a concerted effort to maintain the momentum of improving our lifestyle since his heart attack. For me the motivation is a cholesterol reading that is still too high, despite 4 months of careful eating, and for him it is making sure he never has to go through that again!
But having said that, we have both been aware that the occasional stroll round the neighbourhood, stopping every few seconds to take photos, is NOT going to do much to contribute to greater fitness.

We did manage to climb Mount Moorisi in Lesotho,

and last weekend we climbed the Campanile, an iconic PE landmark, which is a tall (204 steps to be precise) brick bell tower built to commemorate the centenary of the arrival of the 1820 settlers.
We surprised ourselves by being able to do these at all, but now want to get fit enough that next time, this issue will not be "can we make it?" but "how fast can we make it?"!!! I joined an aquarobics class recently, and work out in a heated pool twice a week, led by a physiotherapist. It is wonderful and I hate it if I have to miss a class. It has already made an enormous difference to the amount of pain in my knees and back, and I feel a great sense of well-being after each session. But it is not possible for Max to join in, as it is during his work hours, and it is not a cardiovascular workout, which I know is what we both need.
Soooooooooo .............. today we bit the bullet and bought an exercise bike. Hopefully, spurred on by the guilt if we don't get the maximum use out of such an expensive machine, we will now cycle ourselves to fitness (and with any luck less flabbiness will be an added bonus!)
So as I write this, I am waiting for my heart rate to drop and my legs to lose the jelly-like feeling (and secretly thinking "what have we done, are we totally mad??!!")
I'll end by sharing a few of my very favourite photos taken on our recent trip to Lesotho. As usual, I took so many, so today will only take us as far as the Barkly Pass, near Elliot in the Eastern Cape, next time we might even make it as far as Lesotho!

The forest in the arboretum in the delightful little mountain village of Hogsback.

On the road between Hogsback and Cathcart

Between Cathcart and Elliot

The mountains peeping through the mist at the top of the Barkly Pass.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Skywatch Friday: twice as nice

But before I get to the Skywatch, an urgent appeal..... on behalf of the suffering people of Zimbabwe....If, like me, you are devastated to see images of people being beaten, tortured, murdered, starved and left homeless by ZANU, in its efforts to hold onto power, and if you are also growing increasingly frustrated at the lack of action by the International Community to help these people, then PLEASE take a minute of your time, and add your voice to the many calling on the UN to intervene urgently. It is quick and painless, but if enough of us respond, perhaps we can help to bring about a better life for those in Zim who have no voice. Here is the link to a site called Help Save Zimbabwe.

I received the link in an e-mail from the originator of the appeal, so if you want me to forward it to you so that you can send it on to your mailing list and help spread the appeal to a wider worldwide group, please e-mail me on sue(at)elgecko(dot)co(dot)za . Thanks.

Thanks to all who hop across quickly to register their concern to the Secretary General of the UN..... we'll wait till you get back.... and then move onto something altogether more serene!

A double dose of puffy clouds, and a railway bridge thrown in for fun!