Didn’t do a great job of the baby chickens on the Weber. Not crisp enough and probably needed another half an hour. Annoying, as they were delicious. Fresh spring rolls as a starter, with salad, sweet potato gratin and a bunch of cheese to help with that last glass of wine.
In the forest, tracks weaving between the trees, testing the limits of my balance and coordination. No blood, which is itself remarkable. Only one steep bit in the wrong gear that had me walking after overbalancing in the sand. A tad undignified.
‘Horsing Around’, oil on canvas 76cmx102cm. My reference photos, taken outside ‘Dustcovers’, the fabulous bookshop in Nieu-Bethesda. I pushed the painting hard to bring out the youthful, movement, so full of vigour, of the horse and rider. Using dashes of paint whenever I felt the painting was heading too far down the reality slope. The two figures in the background, to give perspective, also smudged into obedience.
Keeping an 18 month old Border Collie quiet is no easy task. Prince managed to damage his eye playing and needed eye drops to clear the infection. An hourly and two hourly regime that had us all exhausted.
Soft jazz, sunshine, wine and friends. Fabulous anywhere. Next to the water, with the Heads as a backdrop. Spectacular.
Core muscles feeling bruised and battered. Cycling in the forest, or the tension of watching the TDF??
Visited the rejuvenated ‘Art Cafe’ at the Old Gaol complex and to spend time amongst the paintings of the current exhibition ‘African Wealth’. Fabulous works of Sudan by Susi Rood and fascinating urban African portraits by Thanduxolo Ma-awu.
A high-speed snake of steel. Holiday traffic hurtling homeward. Courteous, sensible. For the most part.
Unexpected, trip to Montagu to see Dad. Skies clear after the rain. Green valleys pushing into fields of yellow canola. Mountains with their snow mantel the warning that we would be looking for places with fireplaces.
Didn’t expect to be out in the early morning dark playing soccer with Prince. A soccer ball the new favourite toy, which he found in the garden at Rainbow Glen. As it belonged to one of the kids, it had to be rescued before he destroyed it. Fortunately we found one in Montagu so he now has his own ball. A treasured companion.
Prince, already exhibiting that Border Collie, wonder dog, therapy trait. His exuberance to get close to Dad not quiet what Dad needed. However, for 36 hours he has ensured that we were never alone. Exhausted he his.
Being in wine country and not able to do anything while Dad went to the specialist, we took the opportunity to stop at Esona Boutique Estate.
The light from the fire creating magic in the fabulous wines, visually stunning in Riedel glasses.
We opted not to have the tasting as we were already familiar with the wines and settled for the 2014 Shiraz and Chardonnay with a platter of ostrich pate and Mochella. A delicious ‘sandwich’ of cheddar, mozzarella and ham.
Vineyard pruned and silent. Tranquil, cosy and warm for our bruised souls and cold fingers.
Terry made a vegg laden boboti dinner that Dad could manage and had zilch sugar or carbs. Delicious comfort food that would also have worked well with eggplant included to lower the amount of meat in the dish. Not something that Dad would countenance! Graham Beck Game Reserve Chardonnay and Shiraz to ensue we didn’t dehydrate next to the fire
Afternoon run in the sunshine along the red brick road next to the estuary. Passed a bunch of picnics, with holiday makers out reading in between watching the waters of the estuary. Sun perfectly positioned. Wind, holding its breath. Immaculate.
On the easel, a horse powers from the canvas. A strong vertical composition, full of youthful exuberance. Kids at play in Nieu-Bethesda.
I can’t paint horses without a reference to Sir Alfred J Munnings. His paintings filled with free brushstrokes and great blobs of paint. Less technique, than his inability to judge distance between canvas and brush as a result of an eye injury that left him blind in one eye. “What are pictures for?” he asked. “To fill a man’s soul with admiration and sheer joy, not to bewilder and daze him.”
‘God’s little creatures’, the Figtree Blue butterfly in the garden at Ouland Royale, our lunch stop with Mum and Jenny on a glorious day. They were happy to accommodate my diabetic eating quirks, modifying their tzatziki lamb dish and adding extra avo at no additional charge! (The dressing was a tad sweetish for my taste) Chef Wilja orchestrates her dishes at the long table in the kitchen, conjuring magical dishes that have quirky twists.
My throat a scratchy mess. Not impressed. Extra grumpy.
‘A spot of blue’, Acrylic on linen 40cmx50cm.
A dusting of frost on the wild blue flowers outside the church in Nieu Bethesda. The underpainting inspired by the multicoloured glass of the ‘Owl House’. The linen providing an interesting Owl House ‘glass-bead’ type texture to the painting.
Surprisingly little blood after my tumble on our run through the Forest along the contours. A mass of pink. Erica’s in full bloom. The cycle up Gouna Pass to the small San Ambroso Chapel built in 1891. It sits quietly in the heart of the Forest, beautifully restored and very Italian. The story of the 32 pioneering Italian families that were brought to the forest to start up a silk farming industry, but then suffered unexpected hardships, is told in Dalene Matthee’s ‘Mulberry Forest’ (Moerbeibos).
Beans about coffee, Oudtshoorn.
There are moments when a place, a moment, a pause, define. Replacing the expected with the magical.
Directions given. Unexpected grandeur of the old bank building. Fabulous service. An unusual ‘bobotie quiche’ that didn’t send my sugar levels into orbit. Great coffee, and that special touch of allowing Prince to sit under our table on a cold morning.
Montagu. Baboon patrol. Prince keeping the baboons away from the children playing on the trampoline in the garden. ‘A prince meets his princess’, the comment from Lily in her ballet skirt.
Cosmos flowers coming into Heidelberg. A patch of brilliance. The only place I have seen them here on the Garden Route. Special. My painting, ‘A Touch of Pink’ Oil on canvas 50cmx40cm For the underpainting, different layers of Naples yellow, raw Sienna, gold oxide, and hints of crimson and cadmium yellow. For the wispy leaves of the cosmos plants, an intense green mixed from French lemon yellow and cobalt blue was applied in short dashes. Turquoise and cerulean blue the darker stems.
The apartment full of the smell of rich goodness. Wine, butter, herbs, lemon, garlic and fresh, crusty bread. A French inspired dinner menu with pâté de campagne starter (from Aly in Grenoble), Marita van der Vyver’s Boeuf bourguignon, and a diabetic version of Madeline’s served with a lemon cream sauce.
The Madeline’s a tad ‘heavier’ than expected. However, at least edible after the initial gooey mess!
Half of this world is blue. Half, is dust!
Prince, sporting that ever so trendy ‘ash’ hair colour. Dust. Brilliance, of purple wild iris, amongst the grey dust.
In many ways, Nieu Bethesda has the same feel as Frida Kahlo’s Mexico. The odd brilliantly painted house amongst the cacti. That, slightly weird, alternative, lifestyle where the art, in this case, is infused by the ‘owl house’. Or perhaps, windmills and sunbeams?
Beautifully restored period houses line the dusty streets. Art gallery full of light with piano music carried on the wind. Dust Cover bookshop, a haven of intrigue. Vibrating with stories. Beautiful roses, thriving amongst the yellow autumn colours.
The Owl House, as strange as expected, without being creepy. Shadows cast by the various statues a constantly moving story. I wasn’t expecting the gracefulness, or the delicacy, of the concrete works. Craftsmanship thrashed out of an industrial medium.
I kept looking to see what aspect of her created world was reflected in the mirrors that are everywhere in the house. The crested moon mirror, reflecting the sun created on the glass above the door. Sunbeam floor polish, an iconic reminder of polishing Ouma’s stoep, the inspiration for her glass sun works that cover ceilings and windows.
Poignantly, profoundly, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Quatrain XCIX
Ah Love! could you and I with Fate conspire To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire, Would not we shatter it to bits …. and then Re-mound it nearer to the Heart’s Desire!
Dogs. Donkeys. Horses. Dogs. Concrete sheep. Dogs. Reptile statues. Dogs. Cats. Dogs. There are a lot of dogs in this sleepy town.
‘Karoo Lamb’, our lunch and dinner stop to collect the keys for our cottage. Service, informative and friendly. Food tasty, if a tad pricy. Unexpectedly, an exiting wine list. Dogs, Prince anyway, welcome.
The brilliant moon trashing the night sky stars. One of the highlights of this part of the world. Nothing that a great Riersvlei Shiraz from Prince Albert couldn’t sort.
There was the Karoo donkey cart, perfectly lit by the breathtakingly clear air. Galloping horse, shrouded by dust, with bareback devils. Characteristic, Karoo scenes. Brought alive by the kids hurtling around on mountain bikes, music blaring from mobile phones. The life-blood gurgle of the ‘leiwater’ channels, punctuated by the bells of the spectacularly white church.
The evening cold deserves a fire. However, without a fireplace, a Border Collie snuggle is a good a good alternative.
Portrait of Nigel, our craftsman and Botanical Tour Guide, outside the Owl House waiting for a canvas.
Last lighttrack up in the studio. Only a bit of blood involved. Waiting for the new table top for the trestle and the studio will be ready for the Knysna Literary Festival ‘Delicious Word Journey’. Thrilled that the studio will host Sam Cowen for the evening.
Tree trimmed to form a ‘green cloud’ outside the patio. A few stray bits need to be taken down and we can almost start looking at crafting the tree shape.
Quick trip down to Kommetjie. Prince not impressed with the wind noise, or that of passing aircraft. The waves on the beach an added terror. His walks sporadic affairs between bouts of panic. He was much happier to play in Alan’s garden.
We did manage a walk across the park to the Green Room for cappuccino. The Green Room is simply idyllic. A place you want to roll up, put in your pocket and take out every time you want a coffee in a tucked away, laid back, surfers paradise. They have their own craft beer that I was silly enough not to taste, or at least bring away with me. The service is that blend of focused personalized attention and casual forgetfulness. Perfect.
At the other end of the spectrum, lunch at the Steenberg Bistro. Fortunately I wasn’t driving so I could stare at the impressive Norval Foundation Art Gallery nearing completion at the entrance to Steenberg. Fantasmagorical and something to dream about for my paintings.
The Bistro offered crafted dishes of near perfection. Stunningly visual, with the complex flavours we have become used to in Vietnamese food. Delicious. The estate wines on the wine list were hideously expensive, which I don’t understand. Why they should be priced any differently to the tasting room which is part of the same building is both annoying and mystifying.
Battery in my iPhone needed replacing, which was efficiently done at WeFix. Did meant that I managed to loose the data in my diabetic management App. Fortunately the blood glucose tester memory stored the key data, without any notes. Hopefully enough for my visit to the doctor to establish whether I can come off my medication and manage the diabetes through my life
A New Year, full of promise and mystery.
Madelaine’s, or petit Madelaine, those delicious, delicate, golden crumbed, cookies, local to the Lorraine region of France, that have launched a thousand memories. With a classy, literary reputation, having served as Proust’s muse in his famous Remembrance of Things Past (À la recherche du temps perdu) Hence, perfect for New Year’s Day. Best served, as fresh as possible.
Of course, they needed to be diabetic-sensitive. Fortunately, the one Banting sponge cake recipe worked well, resulting in light, fluffy Madelaine’s. Excellent with bubbles, red wine or coffee.
Wind howling, after storms overnight blessed us with New Year rain. Prince bouncing off the walls at being confined.
Fabulous ride through the Forest at first light. The Forest quiet after the rain. The Jeep track a perfect surface, so you can go that touch quicker and be a tad more daring into the corners. Legs, hammered after the steep climb, fading before I could get into any real trouble. Even did the tree blockage removal thing.
Not impressed with needing to deal with an new complication to my diabetes. ‘Dawn phenomenon’, or Somogyi Effect. High morning blood sugars from the liver dumping glucose during the night. It does make exercising early much easier as I’m not running into the low blood sugar zone I was having to watch earlier, but trying to identify what is causing it is an added nuisance. (Could be poor sleeping given the holiday noise levels and a one year old Border Collie puppy going nuts as a result) Frustrating my goal of eliminating the diabetic meds, through lifestyle management and playing havoc with my eye sight.
‘Works on Paper’, my January challenge, to paint the everyday of Knysna, using the illustration technique I developed in Vietnam.
‘Woodmill Lane Artist’, Acrylic and marker pen on 350gram paper, the first such painting. A familiar sight in Knysna, he stands daily in Woodmill Lane with his brushes, pallet of paint and canvases that never seem to progress.
‘St George’s’, the beautiful old small Anglican Church in Knysna, built with sandstone that turns golden in the morning and afternoon light. Mystical on mornings when the mist swirls down from the forests.
125g cream cheese
2 Tablespoons of xylitol
1Tablespoon lemon juice
1t vanilla essence
1 3/4 cups almond flour
1t baking powder
Mix the butter and cream cheese together
In a separate bowl whisk the eggs until fluffy
Add the rest of the ingredients to the butter and cream cheese mix and gently mix together
Add the eggs and mix, without over mixing
Cover and store overnight in the fridge
-Bake at 180 C for 8 minutes. Turn the pan and bake for 5minutes. Leave to rest in the pan for 2 minutes before turning out onto a tea towel
In the five weeks, I painted 20 pictures on canvas, linen and paper.
Of the limited pallet of 11 colours (Ultramarine blue, Burnt Umber, Cadmium Red, Cadmium yellow light, Titanium White, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium yellow deep, Cobalt Blue, Naples Yellow, Phtalo Blue Green and Cerulean Blue) I hardly used the Cadmium red and I would leave the Burnt Umber out next time.
I found the dark mixture of Burnt Umber and Ultramarine blue disappointing. I did need the additional tube of white paint that I didn’t take along, and both the Cadmium yellow deep and Naples yellow ran short as I did not anticipate the huge amount of yellow colour everywhere in Vietnam.
Phtalo Blue Green, Alizarin Crimson and Naples Yellow made a wonderful rich grey color that contrasted fabulously with the Cadmium Yellow.
We’re sipping iced coffee amongst the orchids at the airport. The world of international travelers wafts around us and our internal landscapes have shifted to all that awaits us – dinners, friends, work, and busy schedules, such as they are, in Knysna. In short, reality.
Behind us, five weeks of anonymity, if, as westerners, we can be anonymous in an Asian world. Language alone encapsulated us and kept us apart. Our engagement only by choice, through smiles and nods.
On Sunday we drank our jasmine tea to the sound of Church bells, the Catholic steeple on the horizon of our neighborhood. Walking distance to an area outside the boundaries of our limited city map is Cholon, the Chinese district. Along the road is an all encompassing temple that includes all religions. Everywhere in between, coffee is the common culture. And the constant traffic is a background white-noise.
Opposite our trendy air conditioned coffee shop, an old man stands bare chested in the heat. Children play badminton on the sidewalk of this major arterial into the city outside the coffin-seller’s shopfront, while he naps on a bench the size of a coffee table at the entrance – hoping to catch the 41 degree breeze.
In our apartment, we take another lukewarm shower with the go-to brand of body wash in all the establishments we’ve stayed in: Lifebuoy. For him, and for her.
Our two day trip to the Mekong Delta was an excursion, once more, into commercial tourism. Fortunately we were a group of six, and all easy going. Our guide took charge of us and we boarded and disembarked boats and busses as directed. The clouds were heavy, but didn’t rain on us. The grey-brown water was worthy of a Kipling description, and the palms and mangroves on the banks, beyond the stilt houses, felt heavy with silence. The American movies come to life.
We were conducted through rice-wafer baking and coconut-candy processing, rice-paper and rice noodle making, and the charms of snake wine, scorpion wine, and grilled frog,snake and rat over the BBQ. Our lunch, fortunately, of river fish, chicken and broth.
The city of Vinh Long was modern and trendy with wide streets and boulevards. Funky coffee shops played contemporary-rap through their speakers.
When our tour guide realised our group was fit enough for a change to the itinerary, he arranged a cycle around one of the island villages to visit a temple. Lush, humid, muddy – but friendly! Children calling ‘Hello!’ And high-five-ing us. Women doing their washing on the water’s edge.
The floating market was grey and drab, with more tourist boats than merchants. Their living conditions basic, both in the boats and in the stilt-shacks along the river banks. It felt intrusive to be viewing and photographing them. But they were trading with smaller boats that came to buy the wholesale fruit and veg to sell on to their local neighborhood markets.
It was exciting to recognize our streets and local coffee shops and minimarts when our minibus entered Saigon again. And it was with a sense of belonging that we settled into our regular seats, at our regular table and placed our regular order without even asking! They knew us so well there, that for me, it was an emotional farewell today.
According to our tour guide, Ho Chi Minh City is a political name. For him, ‘Saigon City’ is written in his heart.
And so it is that we say: Thank You, Saigon.