Messing About with Paint

Spring Dance

Spring Dance Web

Oil on Canvas 60cmx30cm
For Sale $2,400.00

Copenhagen, on a bright spring morning. Children dancing amongst the flowers from the spring bulbs starting to appear in the parks.

The delicacy of their tutu inspired skirts, mirrored in their graceful movement.

Advertisements
Messing About with Paint

Your Beautiful Piece

20130426-205948.jpg

Big Issue
Oil on canvas

His earnest gaze greets everyone who enters the room and he offers a daily reminder of your talent. I suppose that’s what I enjoy so much. There’s so much life in him that I feel like I’m putting him in the very place I’d want to be, almost like I’m able to take of him. It’s really something …
Susan Forbes

Diary of an Adventure

Copenhagen

20130425-030018.jpg

The travel schedules brought us into Copenhagen with enough time for a cappuccino, and a stunning Danish at Lagkaghuse, before we walked across the city to Kelley’s apartment for dinner, along one of the canals in a very smart part of the city.

The weather was too cold to stay outside for long, where the weber was doing the cooking, and we bunched around the table inside chatting about a whole range of crazy issues. The artichoke bake was particularly good. Managed to keep all the red wine in my glass, until back at the hotel, where the wine did its automatic jumping from the glass trick. Trolls brought back from the forests of Sweden?

Spring blossoms, and jazz, on a sunny day in Copenhagen. Still a tad early, with the banks of the parks filled with green sprouting bulbs without flowers. However, in pockets, masses of yellow daffodils catch the eye, while the mauve carpets hint at the splendor to come.

After strolling through the fresh market in Ostre, we made our way to Nyhaven where we sat in a patch of protected sunshine, with a glass of wine, listening to a jazz trio. Our feet happy for the rest after walking for hours across the city.

Our new offices in UN city are dazzling, with spectacular views, and a focus on efficiency and effectiveness. The architectural form, and function – even down to the air vents – are amazing, if somewhat impersonal. The central staircase, looks a bit like a cross between bad air conditioning ducting, and something you want to zoom down on a carpet. The clear, open access areas down five flights, are terrifying for this vertigo challenged individual. All that is missing, beside personal stamping on space, is a great big jazz band to rock the daisies.

Kelleys Artichoke Bake
1 can artichoke hearts, chop them
1 can water chestnuts, chop them
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup mayo (the US version of Hellmans mayo)
Bake 175C for 20-30 minutes

Diary of an Adventure

Härnösand Sweden – The North.

20130419-075217.jpg

Somehow I missed the fact that the Sida advanced training on humanitarian action was not taking place in Stockholm, but a further 430km north (In my defense, the address given was Stockholm) in a quaint town called Härnösand. The taxi driver that collected us from the station in Stockholm soon realized that the address he had been given was not a taxi ride away and recommended we stay overnight before taking the train in the morning. Sound, appreciated, advice!

The snow is white. The mist is white. The birch trees are white. The sky is white. The painting around the windows are white. The wind turbine blades are white. The iced lakes, are white. A zillion shades of white.

Härnösand – the furthest point North we have ever been, almost at the same latitude as Iceland, – overlooks an inlet from the sea, with the waterways slowly thawing, and ducks cavorting in the icy waters. It’s a pretty town, on an iceland with modern additions and buildings sitting comfortable alongside historical, connected by a blanket of snow. We found our way to the points highlighted on the orientation map, seeking protection from the chilly wind, before finding a supermarket to get a few bits for dinner. No wine available, although we did spot a likely shop that was open during the week.

Our dinners are held in one of the historical buildings in town. It’s grand ball room silent, our chatter less so, as the diverse bunch on the course exchange stories. With the sun out, the snow sparkles.

Blue skies and white snow, glaring in the early evening light. Smoked salmon and red wine dinner, watching the trees – still without foliage – bend in the wind. In protected patches against buildings, where the snow has melted, spring bulbs are starting to blossom, their primary colors spectacular.

I have months of work ahead of me after the weeks learning, to integrate humanitarian and human rights standards and approaches into our projects, proposals and terminology. Hopefully, I will not be confronted with negotiating the problematic area of non state armed groups, as there is enough to deal with, within the crazy South Sudan context.

Diary of an Adventure

Öbacka Jazz and Blues Club, Härnösand Sweden

20130418-084557.jpg

Madam Zendara crystal ball glowing amongst the eclectic decor of the basement, with its backdrop of New York City at sunset. Voted the best jazz venue in Sweden by artists, it’s a space that oozes soul. We listened, somewhat stunned, to a duo ( Ullén and de Heney, pianist and double bassist) doing the unexpected with their instruments, creating a sound that has been described as “a highly personal musical language, organically sculpting sounds into detailed sonic textures”
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=44329#.UW-TocsayK0
A fascinating evening, with the spectacular twilight sky when we left, turning shades of ultramarine blue, the snow iridescent colors of turquoise and rose.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

As you would expect, given the complexity of our programs and the nature of the country, we have a gazilion moving parts in various dimensions of quicksand. Some can be solved by taking small steps through the minefields, while others need crazy thinking. Until, the landscape shifts again and everything you planned, or thought was sorted, is made irrelevant. Only being here for five minutes between trips adds to the craziness as everything is contracted into timeless that are ridiculous.

With my mail dominated by the killing of the Peace Keepers in Jongelei and the impact of ensuring the security of my staff working on the Pibor airfield, being woken by fish eagles was extra special.

Good news is that in Lakes State where we built a number of schools that had a strong community participation component, the communities have built additional class rooms using the same design, have reduced the dropout of girls from the schools to almost zero, and in a couple of cases, girls who had been promised in marriage have had their cattle ‘bride price’ returned by their fathers and allowed to return to school. In one school, they even have a female head teacher, the first we know of in South Sudan. All this in less than a year.

An interesting aspect to the meeting with the project team on a three day training program, was the cohesive nature of the group. The barriers between project and support staff, and the ‘siloing’ of activities that has been a problem didn’t exist. A common understanding of how they are each affected by one of them not fulfilling their roles, as well as having a common framework within which to communicate seems to have had a dramatic impact on their relationships.

I know this is in a comfortable relaxed atmosphere, out of the daily grind and pressure of the field, but some of the interpersonal relationships, as well as an entrenched culture, were a serious issue, and to see how much this has changed is certainly worth taking note of. Far more impactful than any Team Building.

Will be interesting to see the impact of this on the projects performance!

Awake early trying to get all the bits in place before I leave later for Stockholm. At least I hope to be able to leave, as they are closing the roads and the airport for the visit to Juba of the Sudanese President, Bashir. I have packed a light bag, with most of the weight my fathers winter coat, in case I need to walk to the airport!

Diary of an Adventure

Menu envy a given! Clos Malvene

20130409-115511.jpg

Vineyard workers
Oil on Canvas 60cmx60cm

Clos Malverne

In fairness, I think this is one of our favourite places. For value, experience and an incredible day out. As such, I may be biased.

The new pairing menu is such that it will demand repeat visits to sample the various combinations and favorites, which they have fortunately retained. Menu envy a given!

The phyllo parcel of roasted butternut and goats cheese look amazing, and for a non-goats cheese fan, it came as a relief that the cheese did not dominate. The pork belly was scrumptious, or perhaps that was the cabshiraz wine??? Visually the fish was bland and uninteresting and certainly in a walk-past sensation selection, the chicken or meat dishes won hands down. Fortunately, the taste was subtle and moreish. The desert, of vanilla panna cotta was light and tasty. Probably not a first selection on a cold, wet, rainy day.

Service was exceptional, with the staff understanding of taste and wine preferences, ensuring that while attentive, the experiences wasn’t rushed. It’s definitely advisable to have a designated driver clearly identified, as the wine quantities are generous.

Art within the restaurant is confined to a small space above the windows. The selection of works on display are varied with the whimsical alongside more demanding vineyard paintings. Wth my back to the view, I had more time to look at the works, but did’t find much connection between the art and the bold, smooth wines, or the pairing menu. A bit like the fish course??? Undemanding, but tasty if given attention??

Or perhaps the art wasn’t that interesting because I had Terry and Hesta next to me, and Edith across the table!!

The view, still demands to be painted. Even on an overcast, and not quite perfect day. The grape vines turning their autumn shades of gold, red and yellow.

Diary of an Adventure

Hemel and Aarde Valley

The wind that has pounded us for the past few days is now dancing across the tops of the pine trees, looking for new mischief. The skies, layered with different grey storm colours, showing off their charcoal shading. A bit like they do their Turner act, only this time highlighting how inadequate my charcoal technique is.

Certainly not beach weather, forcing us to sit reading in front of the fire, trying out various bottles from the local wineries. Polly, not impressed with the popping of the burning wood, and even the cows, which we can hear in the lower fields, aren’t around to keep her entertained.

Easter Sunday found us down in Hermanus for a cappuccino and an excellent three cheese, double baked, soufflé breakfast at the deli. We managed a short walk along the cliff path. Far enough for Polly to play with a young golden retriever in the tidal pool. Short enough to escape back up into the folds of the valley before the holiday crowds emerged.
I managed to kick my toe against one of the chairs. Hard enough to leave it a dozen shades of purple, resembling the Raka Pinotage in my glass, but no blood.

The lodge where we are staying has glass doors opening to every possible view, and while the weather is stopping us from enjoying the porch which wraps around the house, we are still able to sit at the table and enjoy the views. It’s perched high enough up the hill, to be at a hight with the stone pine branches which is amazing. Everywhere are yellow Cape Honeysuckle and blue plumbago.

Fredy and Edith came up from the cottage to spend a few days with us and Dad and Mary also managed to squeeze in a night before their next trip to Zim. With the clouds lifting, we were able to enjoy the veranda during the day, walk up along the mountain and watch the sky full of stars in the evening.

Being brave, adventurous souls, we extended our range of lunch venues to some of the highly recommended estate restaurants. Heaven excellent. Creation somewhat a work in progress, and our virgin deck (La Vierge) still a favourite.

Back in the vineyards, the front garden is showing off its late summer colour, while the garden under the pine trees is still struggling under the weight of tree roots, sea sand and too much sun and shade. The moles have decided its a fine place to build new tunnels and each morning there are great new mounds of sand pushed trough the few bits of lawn. Inviting a new sport for Polly!

Lunch at Clos Malverne, still superb, before the trip to the airport and the flight to Juba Town.

Diary of an Adventure

Creation, Hemel and Aarde Valley

20130405-171509.jpg

As one would expect of a Creation, there are lots of ideas. Some of which are stunning, some disappointing, some not worth repeating and when you thought you had it sussed, there is a surprise that leaves you with a smile.

The art, molten glass and abstract relief emerging from the rough brick walls is elemental to Creation, and in keeping with the multi course food and wine pairing. Even if, like bathroom mosaics, none of it resonated with me.

Disappointingly, and certainly not what one would expect from the creative process, there was no care taken to tease out preferences, and how the wide range of wines and food could best be adapted to cater to them. The formalistic approach did a disservice to the crafting of the wines and the skills of the chef.

The view, dominated by the Babylon’s Toring Mountain range is special, without being exceptional. The restaurant, functional with stunning glass ware in which to enjoy the numerous wines, and the gardens a science in indigenous planting.

The two bottles of Mount Babylon Pioneer Brut Reserve bubbles, made for own consumption, using 100% Shiraz, were an unexpected find. Creation, evolving into promise. As was the farewell greeting from the gardener, who should have received the tip.

Diary of an Adventure

Heaven Newton Johnson, Hemel and Aarde Valley

20130404-135518.jpg

Sometimes it’s good that the Gods, and Heaven, are forced to undergo a refurbishment to match the standard being created in the Southern Tip of Africa. The weather was perfect. The view across to the ocean, under crystal pure skies, breathtaking. The indigenous flowers perfection itself. And the craftsmanship of food and wine extraordinary.

The restaurant at Newton Johnson (Heaven) is perched above the vineyards, designed around the kitchen with the views as central to the experience as the food. For once, there was minimal menu envy, despite us all choosing a different dish. The flavours were subtly layered ensuring that it was only by progressing through the full portion that maximum enjoyment was attained. Despite intense provocation, we skipped the desert section, preferring to finish with an additional glass of Newton Johnson Full Stop wine.

While matching food and wine has evolved into pairing menus and chefs are careful to ensure that wines on their menus don’t wreck the food flavours, there is another dimension to the sensory experience, in matching the art on display to the food and wine.

At Heaven, the fine art was varied and interesting, but I had the feeling it was focused at the tourist patron, rather than on enhancing the food or wine. Especially difficult in daytime, with such magical views and the kitchen showmanship of Stefan, the Patron Chef.

Intriguing, never the less, and I will pay more attention to the art displayed and how it relates to the dining experience.