Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving to my American Friends....

And here is a recipe for using up all that leftover turkey!

remove skin and break cold turkey meat into small pieces.
12.5 ml oil
1 small onion, chopped
12.5 ml curry powder
125 ml chicken stock
5 ml tomato paste (I often substitute tomato sauce)
12.5ml lemon juice
25 ml sweet chutney
250ml mayonnaise
Heat oil and fry onion until transparent. Add curry powder and cook slightly. Add stock, tomato paste, lemon juice and chutney. Cook until the mixture boils and simmer for 3-5 minutes.Allow mixture to cool and then stir in mayonnaise and turkey pieces.

If you like, you can bling it up a bit by adding chopped canned peaches or fresh mango, which go very well with the mild curry and add an interesting sweet and sour element.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Here's one for all you autophiles (if that's a word!)

We took Ethan on a visit to the VW Auto Pavilion today. It is a really amazing place to go if you are into cars, and even more so if you grew up a few decades ago and have fond memories of the beetles and Kombis that were such a part of that era.
Two 1952 models stand together!

Ethan was fascinated by this safari beetle hanging over the doorway, but did not trust it not to fall on his head!

Back in the day, this was the perfect vehicle for our good climate. Anyone who was young in the late 60s and early 70s would have fond memories of touring around in some form of beetle!

Ethan drives along on wide screen TV....

And here is how it was done.

Grandpa couldn't resist getting into the picture!

I have particularly fond memories of this particular colour of Kharman Ghia. My dad, who was a car fanatic, had one that looked exactly like this. Her name was Olga and it was a rare privilege to be permitted to drive her!
Remember the Herbie movies? Ethan loves them so he was delighted to come across herbie climbing the steps.

Because blogger seems to have changed the way you move photos around while writing posts, and you can't drag and drop easily any more, it is an absolute pain doing lots of pics, so if you would like to see more, and especially the racing vws and a laser cutting a beetle in half, I am going to make an album of the rest in Facebook.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

the circle of life

As I look back over this blog, one thing that recurs over and over is the "circle of life." We have suffered many losses over the last few years, including my dad, Max's mom and dad, our cat Joshua, my godmother. But we have also had much joy, the birth of two grandchildren, our nieces and nephews marrying and giving birth to children, our son's wedding..... The last month has been no exception... while we were away in Bulgaria, we heard the shocking and sad news that Max's younger sister, Joyce, had suffered a burst vein in her brain, and she was gone within a day. It has been difficult coming to terms with it... because if we visualize her, we see a vibrant, capable, funny person, full of plans and dreams and busy working to make them happen. Being so far away when it happened, and not part of all the actual drama at first hand, it is so hard to accept that it is real. I featured her on this blog in a previous post, as she renovated her lovely old historic Karoo house.
from the left.... "Little sis" Joyce, Max and "big sis" Charlette
However, as we have dealt with the sadness and loss of our "little sis" we have simultaneously been looking forward to the birth of our grandson.
He finally arrived today, and as you can see, he is a delightful little chap! He is still waiting for a name... welcome to our world little guy!
so, as always in life, loss is balanced by happiness, day follows night, and we keep on taking it one step at a time.

Friday, July 31, 2009

still armchair travelling....

I have posted another photo album from our recent trip to Turkey and Bulgaria, on my facebook page. This features the fascinating village of Pamukkale in central Turkey. It is home to an ancient ruined city (Hierapolis) and the travertines, a hillside covered with glistening white calcite formations from the calcium rich spring water that flows over it. There is also a fascinating ancient pool, a thermal hot spring full of mineral water, that is full of broken Roman columns from the ruined former Roman baths there.
(this may look like snow, but it was 35 degrees C when this was taken! It is calcite. On top of the hill you can see one of the ruined buildings from the ancient city of Hierapolis.)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

more travels

Hi, I'm afraid I've been neglecting this blog for a while. I have been uploading lots of holiday photos but it is just so much easier on Facebook. So if you want to see more of our trip to Turkey and Bulgaria, check out the following albums:

Random art in Turkey and Bulgaria


Around Bulgaria

Srem Bulgaria, july 2009


and here are 1 or 2 random pix taken on the trip, for fun:

at Heiropolis in Turkey

our staple diet in Bulgaria!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Istanbul, oh wow!

The madness of the last few weeks has been dramatically exchanged for pure bliss. Max-e and I are in Istanbul, en route to see our kids and granddaughter in Bugaria next month.

No matter how many photos you see, or how much surfing you do online to get an idea of the place, nothing can possibly communicate the reality to you, because Istanbul is not a place to see, it is a place to EXPERIENCE.

Writing this post is going to be a real challenge for me, I am so prone to using superlatives in my normal life that I just don't know how I am going to express the enormity of this place, not only in actual size (20 million people, not counting the swarms of tourists!) spread across 7 hills and positioned on two continents, but in terms of age and impact as well.

We arrived on Saturday at 6am, and a shuttle took us to our accomodation in the heart of Sultanahmet, the ancient area where many of the "must see" sites are clustered. We hate regimented travel, pre booked and structured tours make us claustrophobic. So we booked the first two nights only, just to give us a base to orientate ourselves from and from here we will go where the road takes us.

We decided a casual hostel would be much more our cup of tea than having to look respectable at a hotel. We really hit the jackpot. The Mavi Guesthouse is the most inviting fun place and the owner Ali (who has never heard of the word "sleep") makes sure his guests are welcome, looked after and well informed. He organises forward travel at really good prices, protects young visitors from chancers, and generally makes you feel completely at home. Facilities are spartan, but for us that is part of the experience (just as, if you look back to our Lesotho trip, our nights in the mud hut were WAY more enjoyable than our night in the luxury hotel) and we have met such a cosmopolitan stream of people (90% a lot younger than us) that it enriches the travel experience enormously. We all sit and exchange stories on the sidewalk in the mornings and evenings, before rushing off to see the sights or shop or whatever the day holds.

In South Africa, we get excited about our historic buildings that are 200 years old, so you can just imagine how this place, where history is counted in millenia, has blown our socks off. Staying on a hilltop in the historic heart of the city, with a section of the ancient city wall right across the narrow street, is just awe inspiring. We stroll across the street when we wake up, sit at a table and chairs set up on the sidewalk next to the wall (bravely risking pigeon poop on the heads!) and eat a typical Turkish breakfast consisiting of a bottomless basket of freshly baked crispy bread, fabulous creamy Turkish cheese, boiled eggs, tomato and cucumber slices, washed down with a choice of coffee, tea or the delicious apple tea that is a staple here.

From here, a short walk up the hill brings you to the entrance of the Topkapi Palace on your right, and the Hagia Sopia on the left.

Further down the road is a stunning park, with big fountain in the centre, and the spectacular Blue Mosque behind it. In any direction you care to turn, there are delightful narrow cobbled streets winding down from the hilltop

Getting into the spirit of supporting local entrepreneurs, Max-e had a shoeshine on the sidewalk. Note the amazing brass apparatus, lovingly polished as thoroughly as his shoes were!

One thing it took us very little time to discover is the delight of buying food on the streets. There is a regular stream of men pushing barrows, or balancing piles of bread on their heads, or selling fresh fruit.

Pavement booths have chicken and lamb on a rotisserie, which gets sliced off as you order, mixed with lettuce and tomatoes and a lovely green pepper sauce served in a bread roll (in the Middle East they are called schwarmas, the Turkish name is Doner, pronounced "dernesh"...) and Max-e is ecstatic because so much of the local cuisine is cholesterol friendly and dairy free.

But there are also any number of charming restaurants, with sidewalk areas and also roof terraces, from where you can relax and enjoy views of the city that leave you limp with delight.

What better way to end the day than with a stroll to the edge of the Bosphorus to see sunset over the exotic Istanbul skyline, followed by a delicious Turkish meal served on a rooftop terrace, on a balmy summer night.

followed by a stroll through the park back to the hotel...

(It took me so long to edit the copious photos i keep taking, we are no longer in Istanbul, but living in a cave in Cappadocia. So there is tons to catch up, but I promise it will be worth the wait!)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

equilibrium returns.... whew!~

Sorry about the previous rant... i considered deleting it, because it is uncharacteristic of me to let things get me down that much... and I essentially am a "glass half full with lots of potential for more filling" kind of girl. But I see this blog as a journal of my life, warts and all, to look back on one day and remember how it was.

Anyway, there is nothing like a day away at a spa, sitting in the jaccuzzi with a wonderful friend who is a great listener (and offers some pretty good advice too!) to put things back in perspective. I also got some helpful comments on the rant, and all in all think that it is largely my fault for being so idealistic, naive and intense.... I shall tackle things from now on with a more considered approach, and not expect overnight results. Toddler steps and teamwork is the name of the game.

So watch out world, I'm back, rested, wiser, calmer, and still looking forward to my holiday, but not as a reason to run away, but rather to replenish my energy so that I am ready to do whatever needs doing when I get back.

Who needs a roller coaster?

Sheesh, being a bleeding heart idealist who takes on Quixotic challenges is SUCH hard work!

I poured heart and soul into COPE for three months leading up to the elections. I won't go into it all again, as I have covered the reasons in past posts, but it seemed so vital to me to challenge the big majority of the ruling party, as the writing was on the wall that our hard won democracy was under threat from individuals intent on their own personal gratification.

I heard yesterday that the person I spent most of that time helping returned to the ANC in a fanfare of publicity. He had warned me it was imminent, and given me his reasons.

Beneath the politically correct "tell me what you want to hear and I'll say it" approach of the ruling party lies a sinister reality that is not openly discussed. The bottom line is, if you are black and in business, you either need to belong to the ANC, and part of the crony system, or you can forget about getting work.

So people who joined COPE because they believed in change, freedom of political association and a healthy opposition to keep the politicians honest, find themselves out in the cold. They face 5 years till the next election, in a fledgeling party that has little funding and is unable to offer them paying positions, so they have the agonising choice between feeding their families or following their ideals.

In some cases it is even worse. Assinations have already taken place here, and the authorities were "unable to make arrests". My friend has been threatened (not the first time) that if he does not support the ruling party he will be killed. So much for democracy and political tolerance, South Africa might wear a veneer of it, but it is wearing thinner by the day. Anyone who believes in the facade of South Africa as a beacon of hope, showing that true democracy is possible in Africa (I was one of them) is delusional.

All that said, and I do understand the huge pressures to return and take up the cushy job offerred, I still feel betrayed. I also doubt my ability to judge people. Was he just an opportunist all along? And if he was one of the Mbeki-ites who saw no future in ANC politics, and hoped that COPE would nicely fill that gap, so he joined for a position in the new party, only to leave when there were not enough to go round, how many others have the same agenda?

I am left with the horrible feeling that I wasted three months of my life, sacrificed time with my family etc to help a bunch of opportunists. I suppose time will tell how many genuine people stay behind and don't cave in to the pressure, for whatever reason. But they will do it without my time or effort, I'm moving on to my next windmill!

Speaking of which... the art gallery. It is a community art centre, non profit organisation, run by volunteers. It has been going for 90 years, and at one time was a highly respected player in the Port Elizabeth art scene. However, as happens with so many similar organisations, the people who are able to volunteer (either because they have the spare time, money or passion to do so) are not necessarily the right people for the job, they are just the ones who are willing to do it. (I include myself in that statement.) So internal politics and scrambling after ever decreasing funding had eventually reduced it to a pitiful shadow of its former self, hardly making a ripple in the art world, just limping along trying to stay afloat. It is, quite frankly, regarded by most leading artists as a place for blue haired whites to sit around painting flowers, so it was neither supported by leading artists, nor the black community.

Along came yours truly, full of Quixotic zeal to turn it around. Make it relevant to all artists, help those in the poorer areas to exhibit, source funding, get mentors among experienced artists.... draw the top artists back by raising standards... yadda yadda yadda, you get the idea.

But I have encountered a Catch 22 situation. I rushed off and networked with all the non-white artists I know. I invited them onto the committee. (I must make it absolutely clear, the invitations were not based on skin colour, as token blacks, but because the people I approached have a lot to offer, are skilled artists and communicators, and as a bonus they have good contacts to help get the word out that our services are open to all.) I asked for contact details so I could send out invitations to exhibit. You know what the response has been? "How many blacks are on your committee?" I answer 1. The reply?
"Well it is obviously still white dominated, so I'm not coming on the committee." (The same has happened with exhibitions.... the invitations were ignored, and so at exhibitions the remark is... "see, it's still for whites!" ) ........... so I need blacks on the committee to send a message that we are not a racist organisation, but they will not join because there are too many whites on the committee....

I was therefore delighted when an young black artist from a remote rural area in the Eastern Cape said he had sourced funding, and hired the gallery. When the due date was approaching, I suddenly got a call saying he was now exhibiting at Fort Hare, and would not have work ready in time so he wanted to postpone. This is not how one treats a gallery who is mounting a solo exhibition, but because of the whole "bleeding heart trying to accomodate the emerging artists" thing, I gave him the date he asked for in July, and used the gap he created to renovate the gallery.

After no response to my calls and e-mails for the past two months, I finally got a letter yesterday saying he was cancelling as he can't get funding... (he already had it so I assume it was used on something else.)

Now, apart from the inconvenience of finding a good exhibition at short notice, and all the work involved to change the press releases, etc, the worst thing is what this has done to my efforts to bring about a change in perceptions of the gallery.

I assumed some of the people who have been on the committee for years were just clinging to the past every time I encountered resistence to my efforts to draw in artists from other cultures. But I am beginning to realise most of them are simply dissillusioned because past efforts to do so have failed. And this simply reinforces that resistence. So the next time I want to help emerging artists, I will again have to battle through all that negativity, from both sides. On one hand the dissillusioned ones will not want to open us up to being jerked around AGAIN and on the other, those who do not know all the inside stories will look at the gallery and say "see, all whites still...." aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrggghhh!

I never thought I would have to beg people to make use of facilities that are being offered to help them, but it is OVER! From now on, no favours, no special treatment. Business is business, you make the grade or you don't, same as anyone else. We will help where we can, to mentor and network for funding, and offer open exhibitions, but that's it. I suppose that means we will continue to carry the label of "colonial relic"... pity, because that is so far from the truth.

I felt so dis-spirited by all this yesterday, i went and ordered a pizza and a chick flick, and had a small pity party, but all I got was heartburn!

Windmills are pretty, but tilting at them wears a bit thin, the damn things just don't budge! So in a week's time I'm dragging my tired and disillusioned butt off for a holiday. Hopefully I will return refreshed and ready to tackle the next windmill that rears up in front of me... but for now, they must all just spin on unchallenged, enough is enough!!!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

There was a hole in the sky that the sun poured through

Sunrise is getting later and later, as we head rapidly towards mid winter, so we get to see it nearly every morning now. How can a day not be great when it starts like this?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A rush of blood to the head.... well at least it looks like that.

After a particularly gruelling renovation involving an obscene quantity of old carpet glue and copious amounts of sandpaper and noisy cumbersome machinery, not to mention getting through the process by popping pain killers like smarties, the gallery transformation finally happened and, with the help of my friend, Nigerian artist Usen Obot, we got the Chinese Exhibition hung half an hour before the opening... no pressure!!!

So today I took some ME time, swanned around the house all morning in a disreputable old kaftan, and then took myself off to jazz up my hair a bit, watch out world, this granny will be back soon, brighter and bolder than ever!

Friday, May 22, 2009

if you wait for life to get back to normal, you'll wait all your life!

...... So with that breathtaking realisation... I have stopped waiting, and accepted that life is a series of unplanned (and often planned, but bigger than intended) events and tasks, and so it is best to just go with the flow, do what you can, and enjoy the ride. One thing that makes it possible to survive the more hectic passages in one's life is the ability to stop and smell the roses, to see beauty all around, even if it is just stopping for a millisecond to take a photo and acknowledge the moment, before re-entering the spinning wheel.

And I guess that pretty much describes the last few weeks. I have been in "community crusader mode" on a couple of things (having left "political activist leading up to the elections" mode behind me for now!!)

One of the things at the forefront of all the others were a David and Goliath battle between us and our neighbours on the one side, and the Police Force, Public works department and Municipality on the other. Way too long to go into at this late hour, but i have mentioned it before... they wanted to build a really ugly 4 storey modern building and 50m mast on the edge of the park that we overlook, blocking our views and ruining this historic area. But by far the most serious aspect of the planned development was that part of it was to be on a portion of the park that was a historic burial ground (in the mid to late 1800s for the workers who lived here at the time, in what was called "the strangers location". I told a bit more of the story on our old PE daily photo blog last year. The developers did not believe us about the burial ground, but we made such a fuss that an archaeologist was called in to dig and sure enough, human remains and bits of coffins were found!

Max wrote copious documents for the Environmental Impact Assessment, and I even went so far as to organise an interview on National e-TV news for our local City Councillor, to protest about the fact that, despite the finding of the remains, the State seemed determined to proceed with the project.
Well I am delighted to say that this morning's paper carried an article with the good news that, due to the finding of bones in the disputed area, the project has been moved elsewhere, and our historic park is safe, for now! We will still be able to enjoy this view for some time...

The other crusade is to get our local Community Art Gallery running on a sound footing, and one of the ways of doing this is to renovate it. So I am afraid I have again donned the "chicks with power tools" mantle, and have been sanding and varnishing seemingly ENDLESS wooden floors for the last few weeks, as we had an unexpected gap in the exhibition schedule, and not enough time to fundraise and pay a professional contractor to do the job.
The walls were clad in some very drab green carpeting, and had had nails hammered in and pulled out at regular intervals for many years, so there was some major work to strip them, fill them and paint them. The floors had blue carpeting glued on them with some hideous glue that clogged up endless sheets of sandpaper.
The wooden floor was rotten in places, and as the gallery was formerly a semi-detached double storey that had adjoining walls knocked out, there were cement strips where the old walls used to be. These had to be chopped out and replaced with wooden floor boards.

This weekend we will rehang the picture rails, build a reception desk and complete the varnishing and painting, et voila, hopefully by Tuesday it will be all shipshape for the opening of our fabulous international Chinese art exhibition (I'll post some pix of that for you next week.)

We had no sooner started stripping the walls when I got an urgent call from East London to say my dad was very ill, so I dropped everything into the hands of other committee members and went down there. Sadly he had had a stroke, and was not responsive... he seemed to move his head slightly to my voice, so i think he knew i was there, but he could not talk, and his eyes were glazed. He died the following morning. He was 91, and very frail, so it was not a real shock, although even when you are expecting it, it actually does take you by surprise.
Luckily, just weeks before, my sister and her husband had come down from Zimbabwe, and we spent a lovely time with dad and Connie for his 91st birthday, and then i was there just two weeks before his death for an Art AGM, and had two lovely visits with him, so there was a sort of closure.

As he had outlived nearly all his friends and family, it was a small group who met at the Chapel in the Frail Care centre the next morning to bid him farewell. Our family is so scattered around the world, and were not able to make it, so i made an unusual request at the end of the service, and asked that everyone would remain seated so i could take a photo of the service, and send it to them, so that they too could feel as if they were there in some way, and had an opportunity to put a fullstop on the story of his life.

That is where one of the "stop and smell the roses" moments i spoke about happened. Well, not so much roses as catterpillers! The Milkwood tree in Connie's front garden had the most fascinating appearance, covered in webs from some sort of moth.


One really good thing happened because of the funeral. I have often posted in the past about my somewhat fraught relationshiop with my father, he could be unbelievably selfish, demanding and difficult. As we were supporting him for several years, I had built up a lot of anger and frustration towards him, I did my duty as a daughter, but found it hard to like him as a person. I guess all the tension and bad incidents had overshadowed any happy memories. A while ago, when he moved into the frail-care, Connie gave me a box of his family photos and books. I hung many of the photos, but could not bring myself to hang the one of him, as every time I saw it I got the old familiar knot in my stomach, and didn't want to be constantly feeling like that in my own home.

Anyway at the funeral, as his grandchildren were all unable to attend (being scattered all over the world) they e-mailed their memories of him for me to read out at the service. They had not experienced any of the drama of the last few years, and their memories were all the happy child/grandparent ones, laughing fondly at his foibles and eccentricities. Reading them out reminded me of the other side to dad, the side where there were happy memories.

At the same time, the minister, who didn't know us at all, but is a wise and gracious man, made a profound observation. He said that there is an apparent contradiction, on one hand we are "made in the image of God", and on the other we are "dust of the earth" He said the part the kids were remembering, the happy parts, were the "image of God" parts, and were to be kept for eternity. The unhappy parts, the parts that one would not want to hold on to, were the dust to dust part, best left behind with his ashes. I didn't realise the impact all this had on me until i was back home, and tidying the study last weekend. I came across the photo of dad, and, instead of the familiar tension, I felt a warm closeness. So I hung the photo on the wall with the others, and enjoy having it there. So, thanks kids, and Reverend, for restoring all my happy memories!

During all this, I had another "smell the roses" opportunity when I went to have tea with a friend who lives on top of a tall building on Brookes Hill, with what must be the very best view of the City ...... it was bliss sitting there enjoying this panoramic view while sipping coffee and talking art, thanks Basil and Esme! As you can see through the mist in the distance, our 2010 World Cup Soccer Stadium is nearing completion, and has become a major landmark in the city.

Anyway enough for now, I must try and get some sleep and be bright eyed and bushy tailed tomorrow to continue the renovation saga! Good night.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Howdy Strangers

Oh dear, time seems to have been flying by, I hardly know where to start! The last month has been a roller coaster ride of travels, elections, exhibitions, hardcore political discussions on facebook, and very excitingly, planning a trip to Turkey and Bulgaria!

So, in no paticular order, here are some images from the last month.....
A trip to the Addo elephant park on Easter Sunday was a delightful outing....

strangely enough, for us, although we loved the elephants, the highlight for us was the meerkat family, their synchronised antics had us in stitches!

Of course, the big news of the month was the election on 22nd April, and it was preceeded by the usual hoopla and promises. Cope came to the party late, due to lack of funds, so while the election posters of the other parties faded on the lamp poles, Cope was noticeably absent, but went big near the end and wrapped whole buildings!

Also on Easter weekend, there was a family day rally to celebrate family values.

We had more encounters of the wild kind this weekend, when we took our grandson to meet the big cats at the Seaview Lion Park. I am not crazy about caged wild animals (I will never own a bird in a cage for the same reason) but these are well looked after, and the cages are huge, so it wasn't too bad or depressing to see them there.

One interesting aspect of the place is their program for breeding the extremely rare white lions. They are not albinos, but have a recessive gene for the blonde colouring. Some of the tawny lions in the park carry the gene, so that they sometimes produce white cubs in their litters.

there were also three Bengal Tigers, which must be the most magnificent of all the cats, although this chap was hardly putting on much of a show for his species, he was totally blissed out after lunch!

Meanwhile this lioness was waiting for her lunch with great anticipation.

And this guy was having a bad hair day!

Another adventure during the month was to go with my friend Julie and her daughter Nana, who had decided to conquer her fear of heights in dramatic fashion, by doing the world's highest bridge bungy jump. It was actually a lot of fun, they had disco music pumping under the bridge which created a great atmosphere in combination with the adrenilin of the jumpers, well done Nana!

This guy went twice!

Don't look down! The Bloukrantz Bridge, about 2 hours to the West of Port Elizabeth.

I also had a trip down to East London (about 3 hours the other side of Port Elizabeth, to the East) In fact to the East in more ways than one... because one of the arty events was the opening of a wonderful exhibition by 4 leading Chinese artists, I just adored their work.

I also attended the AGM of our National arts body SANAVA and got to meet the heads of several other galleries and art bodies around the country, and even a delegation from the Portuguese Art School in Mocambique. It was a very inspiring weekend.

Another exhibition opening I attended during the month was that of Lizo Pemba (on the right)at the Red Location Museum. He is the grandson of the legendary Eastern Cape artist, George Pemba. I had previously met his father Titus (third from the left) who is a character of note, so it was an entertaining evening!

So I'll end this update with one of the lovely sunrises we have seen lately, and the bonus is, since winter is almost here, we don't have to get up obscenely early to enjoy them!