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Le Pommier Self-Service Wine Farm

Le Pommier Wine farm

Le Pommier Wine Farm

We arrived at Le Pommier Wine Farm in the afternoon, just after the lunch rush. Bev and I met our other friend Lenie there and we were looking forward to a nice, light lunch at a spot that won awards for the best country lodge in the area.  We didn’t know it was self-service.  Well, technically it was not supposed to be, but it was.

There was no-one around to receive us, so we picked a table with an umbrella in the charming outdoor area, and sat down.  About 5 minutes later, after saying our hellos and how-are-yous to each other, someone came to ask if we had been helped.  We asked for menus and said no we haven’t ordered drinks yet.  After another five minutes or so of nothing happening, I slowly started to realise that it was self-service. I spotted a pile of menus near the entrance and I went to get us three of them.

By now we were really thirsty. I went inside, to the bar, and ordered our drinks.  The guys at the bar did look a little bit confused but they handed over the drinks without questions. I put it on a tray and took it to the table.  Apparently, that part was not self-service anymore, because a waitress rushed to take the tray from me and serve our drinks.  Then she even took our food order, and brought our food to the table!

The sandwiches were really good and hit the spot.  After our lunch, Lenie went to fetch the bill for us, and we decided not to tip the waitress.  I mean, it would have been a bit weird if my friends gave me 10% of their bill at that point. We resisted the urge to go and wash our own dishes and instead walked Lenie to her 800GS.  After a long day on the bike, she wanted to get home.  Bev and I were sticking around a bit longer, to do wine tasting.

There was nobody in the tasting room, except for 4 people sitting at a table outside. They were enjoying the beautiful view of the mountains and the vineyards with no glasses in their hands. Le Pommier Wine Farm also offers accommodation in the form of cozy, idyllic cottages overlooking the winelands.  I didn’t inquire, but I am guessing they are self-catering units.

A couple came in behind us, and we were all wondering – now what?

The four people informed us that they also didn’t know it was self-service. They were actually waiting for someone to pour them some wine!

There were tasting glasses and there were open bottles of wine from Le Pommier Wine Farm in the fridge.

I said, “Well, we normally start with Sauvignon Blanc, so let’s do it!  According to the list on the counter, the tasting is R40 –  we will leave it at the cash register on our way out.”

I started pouring a tasting round of Sauvignon Blanc for everyone and explained that Sauvignon Blanc is an easy-drinking wine with tropical fruit on the nose. It is most often a wine that is great to enjoy on a summer’s day with light lunches, salads, cheese, and snacks.  Then someone came and spoiled my fun by taking over and even telling us all about the wines!  He was friendly and we enjoyed chatting and making jokes with him. I might write about the wine in another post, or I might just leave it to Le Pommier to write about their own wines.

Damn, I just realised I forgot to clock out at the end of my shift!

Disobedience to the Patriarchal Society

Imagine there were hardly any movies that show a love story you can relate to. Regardless of the genre.  Whether it is a drama about a great love, like The English Patient and Breathe, or a classic like Gone with the Wind, and Pride and Prejudice. A romantic comedy, a coming of age story –  actually, any movie about love or romance.  Imagine no movie about love was about how love is for you. Or every role in a love story was played by an unknown actor – some good and some not – but never one of your favourite well-known actors.

Let me take it even further.  Imagine all love stories were about gay people and their stories.  Never a single love story or date movie or romcom, about straight people in love.  And if there is one, the church tries to get it banned and fundamental activists picket against it or start Facebook groups about how evil this film is. Or everyone is talking about the straight love scene but never the brilliant acting, or the script writing or whatever else. While for you, it is simply a story about two people in love.

Can you imagine it?  That is how it is for gay people.  I started by talking about movies, but it goes so much deeper. We are taught and conditioned from the moment we are born, that love is for heterosexual people.  We (lgbtqi people) grow up with no role models for relationships, only the forced role fulfillment we see under straight people. Almost no beautiful love stories to dream about like any normal teenager. No media that states that the way you love is something normal. There are plenty to tell you you are wrong though.  Abnormal, sinful, wrong, you name it. If you don’t fit into the “normal” box, you have to find your own way, and don’t you dare make a mistake!

Now I can almost hear a bunch of straight people mumbling that they don’t even like love stories. Chick-flicks. Great.  Then don’t watch them.  Just recognise that you are privileged to have the option that you could if you wanted to, and you would have thousands of titles to choose from, with all your favourite actors in them. Be aware that if you wanted to take your date to a romantic movie, there would most probably be one showing at a cinema near you.

Speaking of it, let’s think of the word chick-flick!  That word belongs in a museum for patriarchy.  You know, something from the time when everything to do with how women saw the world, reacted to it and responded with so-called soft emotion, was wrong. In other words, the last few thousand years. Because women are over-emotional, and we can’t have that!  All that love and romance and softness and nurturing are really sick things – so bad for society! Yes, I am sarcastic.

Only hyper-masculine emotion, in any quantity, is acceptable. The emotions men have when they declare wars, create gods to control people, kill for sports or honour, oppress women and treat them like lesser human beings. Still sarcastic. Even the movies about those things are categorised in positive-sounding genres like action, historical period pieces, drama, and war. Yup, patriarchal society can make war sound more positive and honourable than love.  When it is something that speaks to women, and all the gods forbid – teenage girls – it has to be demeaned and belittled.

Yes, it is all changing.  Slowly, and by that I mean, much too slowly.  It all started with Brokeback Mountain, and there are gay films and books these days. One of those, the one that prompted me to start writing about it, is Disobedience, starring Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams.  What a love story!  Maybe it got to me because it is very close to home for me, but it is not just that.  It is Rachel Weisz, to begin with.  One of my favourite actors.  It was wonderfully acted, and the script was written with respect and sensitivity regarding more than just the gay thing.

Rachel McAdams and Rachel Weisz in Disobedience

And there is this love scene that is simply beautiful.  Yes, i am going to talk about it, for a reason. First there is a kiss, and then later a realistic love scene between two women, the way women would do it, instead of the way men want women to do it in movies.  The most amazing thing though, was that neither of the women turn straight in the end, the way it normally happens in American movies.

So yes, finally there are two or three gay themed movies per year, but just when I started feeling more hopeful about seeing more of it in future, my bubble burst.  I was chatting to a friend who is an award-winning author in SA, and she mentioned that her last book didn’t sell well.

“Everybody  wants to hear a lesbian story, but not a fuck would they actually buy it.”  It is true for books, and maybe a little less true for movies, but still true.  What we can’t get away from though – at the risk of stating the obvious – is the fact that artistic media still mirrors society.  A society where women and the LGBTQI community  (among others) figuratively walk a few steps behind the big, strong, sword-wielding straight men. Phallic symbolism a hundred percent intended…  Killing is taken more seriously than loving.  Killing is drama and action, love is just fluff that women like, so it has to be something less worthy.

Just look at the list of the top 100 movies of the last 20 years.  Not that many love stories there – and I am by no means suggesting that the movies there are not good; they are!  I am just saying there are many love stories that are also good.  Love stories, straight gay and everything in-between, that also belong on lists like that.  I want to see them there! We still have a long way to go…

 

 

 

Blomme steel in Potch

Byna ‘n kwart-eeu gelede, in Potchefstroom, was dit ons ding om blomme te gaan steel.  Dis pret, en blomme is mooi. Daardie tyd was dit kattekwaad, nie ‘n stuk of drie kriminele oortredings soos wat dit vandag sal wees nie. Een somersaand was dit weer sulke tyd.  Gewapen met ‘n skêr en ‘n emmer ry ons bo-dorp toe, waar die ou tuine was met die meeste, en mooiste blomme. Ek het daai tyd klas gekry by Prof Theuns Botha, wat behalwe vir bekendheid in die radiobedryf, ook bekend was vir die feit dat hy wen-irisse gekweek het. Nou kan julle al klaar sien waar die storie heen oppad is, al moet ek nou ook bysê dat ek nie geweet het waar hy woon nie.

Nou ja, so ry ons toe stadig deur die strate en steel hier en daar ‘n paar rose, angeliere en whatnots.  By een huis, in die lig van die straatlamp sien ek toe ‘n tuin met die mooiste irisse, en ek sluip daar in.  Ek kan sien hierdie is nie sommer net sulke irisse nie, so ek gaan sit op my hurke, versigtig om nie die plante seer te maak nie, en ek sny ‘n paar van die mooi pers blomme af.  Die volgende oomblik staan daar twee skoene en bene in ‘n donker broek voor my.  Ek kyk stadig op en in Prof Theuns se oë vas.  Ek wil my vandag half verbeel daar was ‘n sweempie van ‘n amusante glimlag op sy gesig, maar dit is waarskynlik net dit – my verbeelding.

Nie een van ons sê ‘n woord nie.  Ek staan op, met die irisse in my hand.  Prof Theuns stap in die tuinpaadjie af tot by die hekkie, maak dit oop en staan opsy dat ek kan uitkom.  Ek mompel iets in die lyn van jammer prof koenaait prof en spring in die wagtende getaway-car met die blomme steeds in my hand. Ek beveel my vriendin om met skreeuende bande weg te trek soos in die moewies. Wat sy natuurlik nie gedoen het nie, maar die blomme stelery vir die aand was oor.

Die volgende dag sit ek redelik verleë in prof Theuns se klas, maar hy gaan aan net soos altyd, asof niks gebeur het nie. Nie ‘n woord oor die irisse nie. Op ‘n stadium begin ek ontspan en myself selfs so half oortuig dat hy my dalk nie herken het in die donker nie. Teen die middel van die periode is ek oortuig hy het nie.  Dis toe dat hy so terloops opmerk dat hy bly is om te sien mense wat sy irisse steel gebruik ‘n skêr en vernietig nie sy plante nie.  Sonder om vir my spesifiek te kyk of enige so-iets.  Net die een sinnetjie wat oor al die ander studente se koppe is, maar nie oor myne nie, en toe gaan hy aan met sy les.

Hy het geweet ek het myne baie deeglik geleer…

Avontuur Wines

Avontuur Cabernet Merlot

50/50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

12 months in French Oak

Fruity, easy drinking wine that you can have on its own. A good blend of the red berries often found in the Cabernet Sauvignon, and the trendy, spiciness of the new merlots.

Brut MCC Rose

70% Chardonnay, 30 Pinot Noir

The word “brut” means that this MCC is extra dry. It is a crisp, MCC with a beautiful pink colour coming from 3 hours of skin contact. Probably not the MCC you would serve at your wedding to a mixed crowd of people.  This one is more for the discerning drinker that worked his or her way up from the sweeter bubblies to the drier ones. It is the one you can whip out when you are celebrating with a few people who appreciate a dry bubbly.

It has a distinct acidity that leaves a pleasant sting on the tongue. I tasted hints of orange and orange blossom and maybe a bit of slightly sour strawberries.  I think this MCC will go well with a fruit salad full of different melons because they have a sweetness that will complement it. I can also imagine it with fresh oysters on ice and maybe starters and hors d’oeuvres with seared tuna, smoked salmon and shrimps.

I also tasted the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir Blend of Avontuur wine, and preferred it to the MCC, but that is only personal taste.

Pinot Noir 2016

A good, layered Pinot Noir made from grapes grown on the Avontuur farm, where the warmer climate brings more of a richness than you would normally find in a Pinot Noir.

Kate had a rather funny, but spot-on description of this wine, saying that Pinot Noirs can be “thin, like flat Coke” but this one was not!

Avontuur’s Pinot Noir lives in 2nd and 3rd fill French oak barrels for two and a half years.

It has a smokiness in the taste with red fruit, like cherries, that makes for a dry, full flavoured Pinot Noir.  It will also age well for 3 to 4 years, for those who can wait that long.

Chardonnay Luna de Miel

Avontuur’s flagship white wine was named after the first racehorse on the farm – Luna de Miel.

This blend of 88% Chardonnay and 12% Viognier is my favourite wine in the Avontuur collection.

It tastes like coconut and citrus, with a woodiness that is at the same time subtle yet undeniable.

I would pair this wine with many things, but definitely with my “Wrong Curry” – a unique full-flavoured curry that I invented one day by doing everything “wrong”.  Follow this link to find out how to make a wrong curry…

Cabernet Franc 2014

I can’t say that I have had many 100% Cabernet Francs, and it is unusual to find one. Avontuur has been making Cabernet Franc since 1996, so they know what they are doing when it comes to this cultivar.

It has amazing floral notes; definitive violet, teaming up with sour cherry, and a whisper of mocha.

This wine is great with food or on its own. It will pair well with lamb and tomato.  I can just imagine how well it will go with a lamb shank, slowly braised in tomatoes and Old Brown…

For vegetarians, I would say it will go very well with a rich tomato dish, like a pasta with sundried tomato pesto, or something with heavy cream. Another dish that will get a thumbs up with  the Cab Franc is a melanzane, because  I think the mozzarella cheese and brinjal will bring it a slight sweetness that will work well.

I promised Bev I would make her a great ratatouille and pair it with this beautiful Cab Franc, and after giving it a lot of thought, I know just the way I am going to do this. More about that later…

 Dominion Royale – Shiraz Reserve

The best selling wine from the Avontuur Estate spends 16 months in barrels.

It is fruity and spicy as a good Shiraz should be. Where Shiraz normally has black pepper in the taste, this one surprises with white pepper.

Bev tasted quite a few sips, and I could see her thinking carefully before giving an opinion. Finally, she said that it falls short, and Kate and I had to agree. To me, it is amazing on the nose, and promises a lot. However, the promises are broken when it does not quite pull through to the taste.

Maybe it needs to age a bit…

Cabernet Sauvignon  2013

Awarded Best African Wine of 2017.

Not a wine in the traditional cab sav style. I picked up no thick blackcurrant, but rather more red fruits. It is lighter and reminds of strawberry jam. There is also an earthiness and a tiny bouquet of herbs when you swallow.

It was kept in oak barrels for 18 months, and can mature for a further 5 to 7 years. There are tannins that you can’t miss, and if you, like me, prefer softer tannins, we would have to wait half a decade or so.

As Bev said, these days she is more likely to go for the “road less traveled,” like the Cab Franc.  Having said that, this is a wine that holds a lot of potential, and I would not mind having it again when it has reached maturity.

http://www.avontuurestate.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Cabernet-Sauvignon2014.pdf

Dessert Wine 2009

A port-style dessert wine blended from 85% Shiraz and 15% Pinotage, fortified with Avontuur’s estate brandy. It is sweet, but ends drier, like a red wine. There is strong dark chocolate and flowers on the nose, and with the first sip, it was like walking into the rain… I love rain, and I love the petricor smell of rain on dust, and this wine has exactly that, bottled.  It is served cold, and tastes like cold rain, hitting a dirt road.  Needless to say, I loved it!

Spookfontein Wine Farm

We don’t do “wine farming” to give bad “reviews.”  On the other hand, I also have to describe a wine farm experience as it happened, to stay authentic.  So, unfortunately, the post about Spookfontein Wine Farm in the Hemel and Aarde Valley won’t say much, because it was kind of a non-experience. It is possible that we caught them on a bad day, so when I am in the area again, I might want to pop in and see if things are different this time around.

We got there late-ish, with about 35/40 minutes to go before closing time.  The setting was very nice, and we were happy to discover what we thought was a hidden gem.  They have a beautiful tasting room with stylish, creative decor that was arty without being over the top. We were on our way back to Cape Town and sat down for the last tasting of the day.

Three Wines from the Spookfontein Wine Farm

Bev asked what they offered, and we were told we could taste 3 wines. The three Spookfontein wines were preselected and they didn’t really tickle the imagination.  We asked if we could taste some of the others, and were told no, only those three were available for tasting.  The good thing about it was that it was a free tasting.  We even offered to pay to taste some of the other wines, but it was not an option. They said their license didn’t allow them.

The information we got about the wines were delivered unenthusiastically in the time it took to pour the wine into two tasting glasses. It was very generic; things we could probably have read on the bottle.  Questions were answered with a bland, “I don’t know.” I think it was around there that we really lost interest in the tasting. We didn’t discuss the wines much nor did we make any notes. We tasted our three wines – I don’t remember what they were – and left.  I don’t’ think anyone noticed – good thing we didn’t have to pay!

As we drove away, I tasted the name “spookfontein” in my mind, like I would roll an interesting wine around on my tongue.  I wondered about the story behind the name and I wanted the spook to jump out an haunt me.  The name Spookfontein Wine Farm, other than the wines, just sparks a rush of mystery coursing through the imagination.  I kept thinking – there is so much you can do with a name like “spookfontein…” So why don’t they?

Click here to visit Spookfontein Wine Farm’s website:  http://www.spookfontein.co.za

 

An Avontuur Wine Adventure with Kate

Horses at Avontuur Wines Our decisions about which wine farm to visit on a particular day, are, in one word, random.  Most often, we stumble onto a wine farm, and when it is the third wine farm for the day, I mean that literally!  The one that happens to be open, or the one that happens to be…. well, there.  There where we are, wherever that may be. Then, at other times, it is the one we have heard of, the one of which we know the wines well, or simply the one that has a festival taking place.

Not Avontuur though.  We planned to go to Avontuur because Bev dreamed of horses and we decided to go and find horses.  Sommer net, because horses are amazing and Avontuur is known for their horses.  What’s more, their wines all carry the name of one of their horses.  It was another emotional day because my ex and I have been to Avontuur before and I had good memories that were going to haunt me.

This time I was in extremely good hands though!  The good hands of my bestie, Bev, and then the good hands of my therapist, or ex therapist, Kate.  She no longer worked at the institution where I saw her for therapy sessions, and we decided to hang out now that she was not my shrink.

I was a bit nervous. I mean, what do you say to your shrink when you are not baring your soul, using up all her tissues in ten minutes while crying about your existential crisis, and now you suddenly have to hide said existential crisis in a wine bottle?  What do you talk about?  What if she knew nothing about the weather, or wine, or Karlien’s pregnancy?  Then I rethought the part about hiding my existential crisis in a wine bottle, and I knew everything would be fine. Well, that, and the fact that I don’t even know who Karlien is; I only saw on Facebook it is one of the things one apparently has to know about.

At Avontuur, Bev and Kate teamed up against me!  They went straight for the reds, while I started with the MCC (Méthode Cap Classique) and moved on to the Chardonnay.

Bev and Kate were like – wháát? It is getting colder and more overcast by the minute. How can you drink chilled wines, don’t you know anything about the weather?

Okay, they didn’t actually suggest that I know nothing about the weather, but I could see it in their eyes. They were thinking it!

When the tasting room person – we call them winies – came to pour my first red, a beautiful Cabernet Merlot, she asked if we heard that Karlien was pregnant.  Ag, allright, I will stop it now. Of course she didn’t talk about Karlien.  The Cab Merlot part actually happened though and what a warm, happy moment on a cloudy day!

One of the first things I learned about Kate outside the therapy room is that she actually tastes wine. Whereas Bev and I taste wine as well as drink wine.  Kate would take a few sips and toss the rest, to our horror.  Besides that, it turned out Bev and Kate were wine twins.  They were drawn to tasting the same wines, and liked a few of the same ones.

We ended up talking about all kinds of things, from our children, to cooking, hiking, psychics and atheism.  And lemons. At one point, when Bev and I had one of our famous heated debates, I looked over at Kate and told her not to worry, that this sort of thing was very normal for us.   She just sat there listening, not sipping her wine (because it was in the spittoon) and said, “Oh, I am not worried.”

Kate decided to skip the second wine farm we wanted to visit, because it was getting late and she wanted to beat the traffic.  A fine, misty rain had started, and it was cold. Bev and I still wanted to go and say hi to the Avontuur horses, and then go on to Somerbosch Wines, just up the road.

We walked Kate to her car when the rain gave us a gap, and then we got stuck in the parking lot.  Stuck, as in, we were standing there talking a lot more. I love those parking lot chats!  It just shows there is a lot more to talk about and you all have to get together again, soon.   We all left when the cold started creeping into our bones.  Kate was standing there shivering in the parking lot, wishing she had a warmer jacket.  Turns out the woman knew absolutely nothing about Cape Town weather.  😉

Living in Sim

When we go wine tasting Bev and I normally say we will go early-ish.  Cape Town-early, that is, which means anything between 10 am and lunchtime. I normally get up that morning, get ready and work or keep myself busy until Bev arrives.

One of the things I have been keeping myself busy with lately is The Sims. Yup, playing god with fake people.  I am not much of a gamer, but I wish I had this game in some of the darker times in my life.  Not only does it keep your mind off things, it also gives you the opportunity to make people you hate swim, and then you can build a wall around the pool so they can never get out again.  People you hate, or, say, people who said they wanted to marry you and then left you because their family said you are not good enough. Not that I have done that.  The honest truth is, I go into a moral battle with myself just to get a Sim to be mean to another.  Boring, I know.  Maybe I will start exploring the dark side of Sims some day.

One morning – and I use the term loosely – when Bev arrived I got in the car and declared: “Bev, your timing sucks. I had to leave my Sim in labour at the Sacred Spleen Memorial hospital.”

Bev just looked at me and said: “My friend, I am worried about you,” and steered the car in the direction of the Winelands.

Now, before anyone plans an intervention, I will go into the more serious side of living in Sim. That does not include exploring a god complex or a life lived vicariously through virtual children in perfect homes. Right now, I am more interested in their knowledge and skills. More specifically, the charisma skill.

When a Sim struggles to make friends, they simply read a book called Solving the Friend Problem Vol 1. I need that book in real life!  I need more friends in my own town! This is something I realised once again about a week ago when Francois van Coke performed at the harbour in Gordon’s Bay, and I had no one to go with. I have friends, amazing ones, but they live far from me. One can hardly expect a single woman to drive 30 km on the gang targeted N2 at night.

The problem is, I have met few people in my own town that I really relate to.  They must be out there, I just haven’t met them.  In Sims you simply go to the beach or the park, introduce yourself and become friends.  In real life, it is not that easy, and now I am going to make a few generalisations that might get me into trouble, but they proved to be true for me.

For a gay woman, friendships can be tricky. To me, it also seems to be getting trickier as I get older.  A few months ago, I was added to a WhatsApp social group consisting of a few friends, and some acquaintances.  First of all, I couldn’t join in their get-togethers often, because I am too far away.  Secondly, it turned out to be a mini dating club where the men were flirting with the straight women, and basically ignoring the gay chick the way Zuma used to ignore calls to resign.  Thirdly, the straight women were in no competition with me, which means they could also largely ignore me and focus on the men. When I did say something, almost nobody reacted.  Eventually, I left the group and to be honest, I don’t think anyone noticed, apart from my good friend Lenie.  She asked me about it at some point, and when I explained that it was like a dating club where the gay chick was ignored, she said:

“Analize, I really want to, but I can’t even tell you that that is not true.”

This is why gay women often hang out with each other.  We also often hang out with our straight, single, female friends.  Most of the gay women I know have very few straight male friends.  Not none, but few. When we do, they tend to be married or in relationships and not readily available to go to Francois van Coke performances at short notice.  The same goes for our straight female friends in relationships. Then we also don’t have many straight-couple friends.  Again, not none, but few.  I have also noticed that with the few I have, I will never really get invited to say, a dinner where there are another straight couple or two. When they do invite me to do something, it is normally just us; the two of them and myself.  There are a few exceptions but it is definitely not the rule.

It is also noticeable how our straight female friends change when straight men get added to the mix! It is not unusual for the gay friend to get dissed in favour of the men! I suppose we do the same when there are other available gay women at the party, I don’t know.  There was the time when I suggested a braai at the beach, and a straight friend vetoed it, saying she is not in the mood for a bike-braai – and then went on to Du Toitskloof, with the bike, to braai with a bunch of dudes the very same day.  One could speculate about the reasons for all this, but I think in the end it all comes back to our hunter/hunted human natures.

And that is why I want to live in Sim.  They don’t have these dynamics.  Life is much more simple for Sims than it is for us.  Whenever they meet a Sim person, any person, man or woman, single or in a relationship, they firstly have three options about how to engage with these Sims – mean, friendly or romantic.  No orientations, no battles unless you pre-select the option, no politics and no hurt or bad feelings.  No discrimination. No gender roles. Just people. Okay, fake people, but in many ways more authentic than real people.

Everyone takes out the trash, cleans, braais the hamburgers, fix the leaking faucets and change the babies’ nappies, regardless of gender or age.  They engage with everyone in the same way.  No-one is more, or less, worthy of promotions, interaction, jobs, money, and you guessed it – attention and friendships. Shoot me for playing in a perfect world!

Now if you will excuse me, my Sim’s social mood meter is in the red, and I have to google whether you get a wine-tasting expansion pack for Sims…

 

Tetris in die Parkeerterrein

As humanis probeer ek altyd mense se gevoelens in ag neem, maar hier is my stukkie “inhumanism” vir die dag.

Ek ry ‘n motorfiets. Niks fancy nie, net ‘n klein 200cc Motomiatjie, met sy eie storie. Nou kyk, ons wat bike ry weet al hoeveel groceries jy kan koop en iewers in jou rugsak of op die bike inpak, vasgespe, of saamsleep.  Dan soms, op ‘n winderige Sondagoggend gaan jy “gou” Checkers toe.  Jy kry al die goed wat jy moet kry en in jou kop speel jy al Tetris, soos Lenie altyd sê, om seker te maak jy sal jou inkopies by die huis kan kry.  Skielik is die rys wat gewoonlik R180 is, R18, of so iets, en jy het 2 nodig.  Jou tetris level skuif op, maar jy dink jy is nog okay, en dan… ooooeeee, die cupcakes lyk darem maar lekker…

By die kasregister glimlag die vrou agter jou en vertel dat sy en haar man ook bike ry en hulle het nou gestaan en debatteer oor hoe jy al daai goed op die bike gaan kry.  Julle lag saam oor die Tetris grappie en jy stoot jou trolletjie uit terwyl jy self wonder of jy nou nie die keer effens van jou trollie af is nie.

Nou kom jy in die parkeerterrein, maak die top box oop en begin om die 2 pakke rys heel onder in te pak.

Die Horison Man kom aangestap vir jou trollie.  Jy smile vir hom, en sê:

“I am going to take very long.”

Hy sê niks, maar kyk jou aan asof jy OCD het, of beslis heeltemaal van jou trollie af is omdat jy die goed staan en sorteer in twee hopies in jou trollie.  Want sien, party moet in die boks in en ander in die rugsak in.

Dan wil hy skielik help, en kom krap eintlik net jou sisteem deurmekaar.

“It’s okay,” sê jy vir hom, “I’ll do that but it is still going to take a long time, so maybe you can come back for the trolley in a while?”

Hy sê nogsteeds niks, en jy pak die hoender en suiker en ander goed bo-op die rys, en tetris ‘n koekie seep en ‘n pakkie suurdeeg in ‘n gaatjie in. As jy omdraai hang die Horison Man bo-oor daardie trollie asof dit happy hour in die pub is. Sy uitdrukking sê vir jou hy kyk na die 4 trollies wat nou al in die parkeerplekke langs jou agtergelaat is, en dink, my fok, ek kon daardie trollies nou al by Checkers se hoofkantoor self gaan parkeer het.

Jyself begin nou al krapperig raak, want hy hang net daar en jaag jou woordeloos aan, en jy kom nou eers by die brood en die cupcakes.  Jy wens hy wíl fokof hoofkantoor toe.  Die brood en cupcakes gaan vanself reverse-engineer en weer soos meel en suiker ens lyk as jy dit nou nog harder met die boks se deksel squeeze. Dan moet jy nog jou 2 baadjies en die geel reflection-dingetjie aantrek, helmet en sonbril opsit, handskoene aantrek en vasmaak, handskoene weer uittrek want jy het die sleutel in jou sak gelos en kry hom nie raakgevat nie… Handskoene weer aantrek, in jou rugsak inklim…,

Nou skielik sê die Horison Man: “Take your time Madam,” en jy kan nie besluit of hy nou sarkasties is of nie en jy wil hom met ‘n blik baked beans gooi, want kon hy nie reg aan die begin gesien het jy wil jou tyd vat, en geloop het nie?  Die hele parkeerterrrein staan nou al vol trollies en hy lyk of dit nou alles jou skuld is, en hoe laat gaan hy nou vanaand by die huis kom as jy hom so uit sy werk uit hou?

Dan besef jy, om nou vir hom ‘n tip uit te grawe gaan nog 5 minute vat, en jy voel sleg, maar jy ry net weg en gaan eet ‘n cupcake by die huis.  Jy sal hom maar volgende keer dubbel tip. Sy naam is André en hy is altyd daar. Jy sal ook volgende keer onthou om die baked beans tot laaste te los vir ingeval jy dit nodig kry.

Botrivier and Open Closed Gardens

 

Our normal mischief-mood made us deliberately turn right when we kind of had it all planned to go left, and instead of heading to Stellenbosch, we found ourselves on Sir Lowry’s Pass. It was the weekend of Elgin Open Gardens, and on the spur of the moment, we thought we’d check it out.

We managed to pass Peregrine Farm Stall without stopping for stuff we could not refuse and got to an open garden. Or a closed garden.  Well, it was open if you paid.  It was a toss-up… Spend the time in an open, not so tranquil garden between a whole crowd of people, or go on to a wine farm. I say toss-up, but it was really a no-brainer and no coin was tossed as we unanimously declared that no closed garden had ever stopped us, so there was no point really.

It was busy!  Everywhere. So we kept driving and eventually got to Botrivier.  I love this little village in the Overberg!  Some years ago friends of mine arranged with the Botrivier Hotel that we could camp on their lawn for New Year’s.  That was during one of the weirdest times of my life, so I remember it very vividly.  I was, how can I put it, between homes?  Yip, let’s go with that. I was between homes at the time, working at the Spur in Gordon’s Bay because I couldn’t find a job in the film industry after moving to Cape Town.  To avoid spending time at what passed as home then, and also because I was doing whatever it took to keep going, I worked double shifts almost every day.  That means I started before 7 am and finished around 11 pm and spent nearly all that time on my feet.  I was completely exhausted!

So on the 31st of December, I took a tent and a sleeping bag and drove to Botrivier.  It was a great, relaxed afternoon with friends under the trees on the cool lawns of the hotel with a bar dating back to 1890.  For our New Year’s Dinner, we went to the Shuntin Shed for pizzas.  The restaurant is in the old station building, right between the tracks.  Long ago, in the 80’s I think, the Afrikaans series Nommer Asseblief was filmed in this charming town with a rich history of trade and transport.

After eating my pizza and enjoying some wine, the weeks of double shifts kicked in and I could hardly keep my eyes open.  I decided to get some fresh air to wake up. Then I decided to get something from my tent.  I crawled in and thought, just for a minute I am going to lie down on the cool, soft sleeping bag…

Around 3 am I woke up in an almost sleepy town.  Only the real die-hard party people were still around, too few of them to even make a decent noise.  I had slept through the midnight countdown, the New Year’s wishes, the cheers and the music, on nothing but a sleeping bag on the grass under the tent.  It was pure bliss!  I went right back to sleep for more pure bliss.

In the morning I paid back my dinner debt to my friends who had paid it when I didn’t return, and gracefully – I hope – accepted their teasing about my disappearance and fading on a party.

A year or two later I worked for a boss lady from hell who made me make a YouTube video about Botrivier one Saturday afternoon.  It was going to be the big launch of a project, and because she decided, around Thursday afternoon, the launch would be that Saturday, it was going to be that Saturday. We had about 10 min of footage of a valley near Botrivier, filmed with a handheld camera from the car.  Oh, and some interesting shots of a graveyard that had to be dug up to accommodate her housing project. So, basically, it was a Youtube video for a non-existent audience, produced in an impossible time-frame, with non-existent footage, about a non-existing business that wanted to build a non-existent housing development on a piece of land they didn’t own. Near Botrivier.  At least the town exists! I told her it was not really possible to make a video with what we had and she said she was sure I’d come up with something.

I worked like crazy through the Friday, and everybody who has ever edited a video will understand how time-consuming it is.  Even more so when you have nothing to put in this video. So, by closing time on Friday, I reiterated that I could not make a video in the given time.  With a dramatic sigh and stern face I was told that I would have to come back to work on Saturday then.

That Saturday I sat in her cold lounge finishing the video with some free, and some not so free, nor legal, generic still photographs I found on Google. The big launch of the big project was to… *cue drumroll*… click the upload button on Youtube.  About 5 minutes later YouTube declared the upload completed. Yay! The big project that could not wait, was launched with fireworks and fanfare. Or no, wait… none of that. No champagne, no cake. Not even a beer. But hey!  All those people who were invited could now see the movie! Of course, they were friends of the boss, rather than confirmed, or even potential, investors. Both of them!  Unfortunately, they were out doing Saturday things, but politely though vaguely,  said they’d watch the video sometime in the coming week.

Now, two years later, I see the video has actually been viewed 143 times.  Wow. That is impressive, considering the development still does not exist and the movie was made with no footage.

But to get back to my story, Bev and I were near Botrivier, and I remembered, from my extensive research for the big launch, that there was a wine farm with a B. Not Beaumont. Well, that too, but that is the obvious one, but there was another one I could not remember the name of.

We were driving along, and then we saw the B.  Barton Wines. They were open, and they had wine.  Some pretty good wine too!  After the wine tasting, lemon picking in the vineyards (shhh, don’t tell) and climbing around on their tractor, we went to the Botrivier Hotel to watch the All Blacks making mincemeat of the Boks.  We ended the day with a stroll through the old town. There are many geraniums growing near the historic station. Pink, red, dark pink, purple; all kinds of beautiful geraniums. And that garden is open. I have Botrivier Geraniums planted all around my shack now…

A Twist in the Slap Chip

A Twist in the Slap Chip

A Twist in the Slap Chip

The styrofoam box of fish and chips was hot in my hands as I looked for a place to sit.  Not the fancy fish and chips you buy at branded franchise outlets in malls, but the huge portions of fried snoek and real slap chips that swim in salt and vinegar, that you find at old-style Take Aways with Coca-Cola signboards.  I sat down on a bench at a table next to a woman and a small child and started eating the steaming chips, careful not to burn but too hungry to wait for it to cool down.

I sat quietly among the shoppers walking past, and other people eating piles of chips and chattering away at their tables. The little girl, who was probably not yet two years old, pulled at my jacket with a tiny hand.

”No, don’t…” the mother said.

”Its okay,” I said.  The little girl was too small for her age, and I didn’t want to think about why, because we know…

“Can I give her a chip?” I asked.

“Yes, thank you.”

 

I took one of the cooler ones at the side of the box and held it out to the child. She stuffed it into her mouth with a smile.  I pushed the box to the middle of the table and told them to have some.  We ate together.

I looked at the stick-thin woman with the torn clothes. She looked like someone who was waiting.  Physically waiting, but maybe also waiting on another level, as if she knew something had to change but didn’t know how.

“Thank you,” she said shyly. “I looked in the bin but there was nothing.”

I didn’t really know what to say. I went with, “Eat enough, there is plenty here.”

”I am waiting for my aunty,” she said, looking around. “She should have been here by now.”

I still had nothing to say.  The little girl was also quiet, helping herself to handfuls of slap chips.

“I sleep there, just down the road,” the mother said, and looked away, ashamed.

“By the bridge?” I asked and she nodded.

“It must be very hard.  The nights are getting colder now.”

She nodded again and started to say something, stopped, and then decided to say it anyway.

“She is going to stay with my aunty,” she says, tilting her head toward the child. “While I go to form. I must sort out my life.  Get a job…”

“Form?” I asked.

“Where people go to get rid of the… uhm… dagga and stuff in their bodies, and get well again.”

“Ah, rehab,” I said.  “Do you guys call it form?”

She nodded.  Embarrassed again, but then suddenly, just sad.

“Yes, form.  I have to. I love her too much to carry on like this.”

 

I looked at them.  A child, oblivious to everything but the food on the table.  So used to the only life she knows that she thinks that is how life should be. A broken young woman, ashamed, despondent.

“Tik?” I asked.  It is the relatively cheap drug of choice here in the Cape and it doesn’t take much guessing to know.

She looked into my eyes, looking for judgment and unkindness that wasn’t there.

“Uh-huh,” she said, barely loud enough for me to hear.

“Yes, that is something one shouldn’t start…” I stated it as a fact, not a judgment.

“I don’t know why I started. I was stupid.”

“And tik is hard to stop…” I said.

“The only way is to get away from the friends and the people doing it,” she agreed with a nod while taking more potato chips.

“They are not your friends,” I said, gently.  “Friends don’t drag you down.  And most of all, they don’t keep you down. You are just used to them, they are not your friends.  But you know that.”

She nodded. “It’s true.”

 

We sat in silence for a while.  She looked around again, worried as time ticked on.

“I wonder where my Aunty is.”

I got my stuff together and got up to leave.

“You two must eat the rest of that,” I said, moving the box to their side of the table.

“Thank you,” she said softly.

“Work hard at it,” I told her.  “It is very difficult, but you can do it if you want to.  Do it for your child, and for yourself. Just… hang in and… ”

Tears welled up in her eyes and she looked down, biting her lip.

I touched her bony shoulder.  “ I can see you want to, and you know what?  You can.  I am a stranger and I don’t know you, but I can see that about you.  You can do it because your child is important to you.”

She silently wiped her tears and nodded again.  I honestly don’t know if I really meant what I said, because of the darkness in myself at that time. In a way, I think I did mean it because that was what she needed to hear and what I needed to say.  Maybe we saw each other’s darkness and therefore, words about light, somewhere, somehow just needed to be thought out, formed, said and heard.  Perhaps I said these words to myself as much as I said it to her and believed it – or not – as much as I could at that moment, at that time in my life.

When I came out of the bank and walk past again, 10 minutes later, an older woman, presumably the Aunty, was there with them.  She had the child in her arms and the girl and the mother were both crying.

I often wonder about them.  For many, they would probably just be three more people with a story that is the same for thousands of people.  Like just about everyone else I am cynical about people and about life, but these people touched me that day. We had lunch together.  We talked, and it was real. Something in me that does not really exist any more hopes for a good ending to their story. Or a good beginning for them. A twist in the tale.  I desperately need to believe in twists right now and it is harder than ever before.