Different people. Different grief.

The other day, someone asked me,

Do you miss him?

I was a little girl – probably nine or ten – when I first encountered a death in the family.  My father’s mother.  We called her Wee Granny.  I don’t remember her.  Hardly surprising because the only time I did ever meet her, I was an infant and she never left Scotland.  Glasgow, to be precise.

Next, it was Big Granny.  Now, I do remember her.  I have vivid memories of her trip to South Africa.  I also have vivid memories of my time with her – as that three-year-old – on the eve of our departure from the UK, en route to Johannesburg.  She’d been ill, and my mother had been called to her deathbed in England.  About a month after her to South Africa, Granny died.  I was about 16.

Neither of those deaths had a profound impact on my young life.  Mainly because neither of the grannies had been part of my everyday life.  Ever.  In a world without the Internet and social media, intercontinental, trans-hemisphere communication was by letter.  Trans-Atlantic telephone calls had to be booked and were reserved for life – and mostly death – emergencies.  And telegram.

Because we were so far from blood family, my parents built close friendships with contemporaries. Members of their inner circle substituted for grandparents.  So, the death that first really hit me was Uncle Ritchie.  That time taught me two life lessons.  Firstly, that death hurts.  And secondly, that bad news really does travel fast – via routes least expected.  I wasn’t living at home and was in the throes of my first-year university exams so they decided I should not be told.  Little did they know that among my circle of friends, was somebody who had also known Uncle Ritchie.  I didn’t believe her.  I rushed to the payphone.

They didn’t want me to go to the funeral.  They couldn’t stop me.

In the years that followed, I lost friends, colleagues and acquaintances:  car accidents, illness and suicide.  With each death I learned that grief is as individual as the person for whom one grieves. That lesson was hardest when my parents died within eleven months of each other.  My mother, unexpectedly after a short illness.  My dad, although of cancer which only emerged after Mum died, The Husband and I always believed, of a broken heart.

It’s no secret that my mother and I were not friends, but she was my mother and her death hit me like a sledgehammer.  I wept for months.  Dad and I, on the other hand, had a special connection which deepened after she died.  I miss him and wish him here more than I do her.  Nearly a quarter of a century later.

The death of a parent, even as a thirty-odd year-old child, changes one’s world.  Suddenly, somebody who, from the beginning of one’s memory, was always there, and integral, is just gone.  That is an enormous adjustment.

Nothing, however, prepares one for the death of one’s life partner.  Oh, you can prepare in your head.  I knew, in my brain, that with a significant age gap, biology and statistics suggested that he would die first.  But the brain and the heart don’t work together very well especially when the older person is healthy, fit and never got ill.  Especially when the stock response to hearing his age was an incredulous, “Really, I thought you were ten years younger than that!”

The Husband died exactly a month short of his 77th birthday.  He went to hospital to get better.  The operated and removed what had made him suddenly ill. He came through the surgery with flying colours.  So well that the medical staff called him their miracle man and even with all the post operative pain and discomfort, his lust for life had not diminished.  Three days after that surgery, he developed a clot, was rushed to ICU and intubated.  On top of that, he had an infection, and he went into organ failure, and I was called to his death bed.  Not ready to give up, few hours later his body had rallied, and he’d turned the corner and continued improving.  Until.  A series of hospital-based infections eroded his already compromised body and, eventually, his life.  For the last 37 days, thanks to being ventilated, he could not speak.  He could, though, communicate, and in our last conversation, he was still determined to come home.  That was his plan.  That was our plan.

Three days later, he died.

For seven weeks I had been home alone and visiting him in hospital.  I put stuff on hold because he was coming home.  This could wait.  That could wait.  He was coming home.  I put the laundry away.  I ordered a chicken for a Sunday supper.  He was coming home. Knowing he’d be weak and not be able to climb stairs, I began planning to move ourselves into the guest room.

Marriage is “in sickness and in health”.  They warned me it would be a long path after six weeks in ICU and the extent of muscle wastage.  If it meant his coming home and – again – grabbing the brass ring, it was what I had signed up for.

I chose to sign up for a life with him.  It was a choice.  And we made a life.  We scrapped and disagreed – as all married couples do.  But he was the person I bounced ideas off.  The Husband was the last person I saw as I went to sleep, and the first when I woke up.  I’d reach over in the night to see that he was warm and still breathed.  My worst nightmare was waking up and he’d be gone.

I am living my worst nightmare.  He is gone.

I am not alone.  I am not lonely.  I am lonely for him.  For my friend.  The person I chose to spend my life with.

I miss him all the time.  I shall miss him always.

Until next time
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script

If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised applications.

  • From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here or on on the image below to sign up.

Original artwork: @artywink
  • lastly, graphics are created using partly my own photographs and Canva.


Six decades, only six songs? Impossible

musical memories

Whenever I hear Abba’s Waterloo, my eleven year old self remembers the first “pop” song that appealed to her – the very first time she heard it.


It was a weekday afternoon and the radio was on – we had one of those radiograms that had the radio in the middle, a turntable on one side, and a cubby hole for the records on the other.  No, Waterloo was not the first seven single I bought.  That was this song from a local singer, and about not my father, who was also a Jimmy, but rather he who sang about his Long Haired Lover from Liverpool. My mother subsequently developed a long lasting love affair with Abba and bought each album as it appeared.  They were played to death on that record player.  In my teenage and adult years – and still in some circles – it just wasn’t done to admit that one was an Abba fan.  My mother was NOT a Waterloo fan, but she loved Chiquitita

As a fourteen year old, I remember a drilling – gymnaestrada – competition at school.  Every class participated in it each year.  I only remember 1977 and the song:  Knowing me, Knowing you.  We won.

Not quite the task

I’ve not really begun, and already I’m way off track.  The task set, here, was to select one song that best reflects for each decade of one’s life.

A confession

I recommended the theme, and the Silver Bloggers’ team agreed.  I should have known better.  Music – popular – I admit – has played an important part in my life – with a little jazz on the side.  Going on five years ago, someone challenged me to pick my favourite song.  I simply could not and, instead, wrote a kind of musical “back story” to my life.  Similarly when I tried and forced myself, eventually, to pick my top 3 lead singers. I couldn’t.

It’s that old story:  be careful what you wish for.  I had created a tall order.  For myself, anyway.


Reading those posts – you need to, for some of what follows to make sense – I confirmed a suspicion:  I’ve written a lot about my favourite songs.  That backstory to my life, though, is a combination of musical memories and poetic license:  I did have to search for some songs to weave into the story. Just for fun.   I do conclude with some real, and for me, iconic favourites.  In getting to my top 3 lead singers, on the other hand, I picked songs and people that take me back to people and places at specific times in my life.  Or, which reflect – with hindsight – what was happening for (or to) me, in that phase of my life.

So, in thinking about the six decades from the 1960s to the 2020s, I realise I have set myself a hard task.  In thinking about it, I had to create a framework for myself.  I tried to divide my life into phases and thought about what song takes me back there.  In some parts of my life, a lot happened in ten years and at others, there’s an almost ten year blank.

So, as usual, I’m taking liberties and I shall be doing phases rather than decades.

Pre-school:  the 1960s

One of my earliest musical memories is Sandy Shaw’s Puppet on a String. Somehow, it always takes me back to the first home I remember in South Africa:  an apartment in Port Elizabeth.  I don’t have vivid memories of the place other than of some of the things I did with my Dad.  He worked for the municipality and St George’s Park  was within walking distance – even for a wee girl of about four – and I’d occasionally go with him when he had a weekend duty.  I think, though, that this is the song that marks that phase:

Donovan’s Mellow Yellow, it seems, is a song I’ve always known, although I didn’t really get to enjoy or understand his music until I was in my 20s.  I have a funny feeling that my mother’s decision that yellow was my favourite colour, was based on my probably constant humming of this song.

I loved singing and would often ask my dad what I could sing for him.  His stock answer:

Over the hills and far away…

And he meant it.

Back to Donovan: I had a colleague in the mid-80’s who had a yellow tie, and whenever he wore it, I’d greet him with a

They call me mellow yellow….

He was a dyed-in-the wool Afrikaans South African.  His expression told me he’d never heard the song…

Primary school:  1970 – 1975

I have already mentioned my Waterloo moment.  There is though, another 1970s song that will forever take me back to this part of my life.  My parents had friends who would invite us to lunch at the military base and in the mess.  There was, of course, “piped” music and one Sunday, I distinctly remember singing along (much to my mother’s horror) to a song, in the middle of which she exclaimed:

I cannot stand this!

Charisma’s Mammy Blue, now rarely heard on the radio, never fails to take me back to that time, my little frock and bobby sock, as well as of course, my very irritated mother.

High School: 1976 – 1980

I was twelve when I went to boarding school in 1976.  Happily.  I escaped my mother and home where I felt trapped.  While boarding school was very rigid and I was considered a goody too shoes, I lived in my head, doing my own thing within those rules.  There were difficult times and one of my most horrible memories was the initiation.  The “newpots” had to dress up as bunny girls and dressed like that, we were subjected to all manner of humiliation and finally compelled to perform at a concert.  For an introvert it was traumatic.  To this day, dressing up and opening myself to that kind of humiliation fills me with horror.  Nor will I be part of anything like that.  If I were to pick a song that summarises that time, it would probably have to be this one:

I did relate to Sandra Dee, but never saw myself finding my Danny.

University: 1981 – 1985

Each of these five years is a lifetime.  I started growing up and started the journey to becoming myself.   Choosing just one song from that phase, was difficult.  The 80s was, seriously, my era, so in selecting, I’ve chosen, again, songs, the titles of which reflect what I was learning to do and be.  That said, I do love them both.  For different reasons.  Both have elements of brass and big bands, a love of which I shared with my dad.

First up, Joe Jackson.  Many of his hits punctuated the first couple of years at uni – as I was learning to step out, myself.

Not only do I enjoy the ska that was Madness, but I was also, in my own way, learning to go one step beyond…


Work and more: 1986 – 1990

I think I had more fun, and did more partying in my first year as a working girl than I’d had in my entire life.  Every Friday, the party began at around 3 or 4 in the afternoon.  A bunch of us would adjourn to an establishment about four or five blocks from our inner city Johannesburg offices, for our weekly “seminar”.  We’d put the grand sum of R2 into a pool and that would buy the bunch of us at least two rounds of beer.  Yes, I drank beer in those days.  Who didn’t?

We’d hang around there until we discovered who was playing that evening.  If we liked the band, we’d stay.  We always stayed for The African Jazz Pioneers.  This transports me back to those evenings – instantly.

In 1990, after Nelson Mandela’s release, but before democracy, they were one of the first mixed groups to play at the Nico Malan Theatre (now Artscape) in Cape Town.   I was on holiday in Cape Town and dating (sort of) a then member of parliament and we went to see the show.  It was weird.  There was that huge band, all formal, in dinner jackets, playing to a seated, un-dancing audience.

Returning to the 80s, and that same venue, another iconic local band we never missed, was Bright Blue.  Their iconic Weeping is embedded in the soundtrack to my life but the song that takes me back to those heady nights when we literally danced till dawn, either at Jameson’s or at some or other illegal shebeen in Soweto, is this one:

It was a happy, dancing time and I met genres of music that this little white girl had never experienced (too many and much for now).  I was enchanted and hooked.

Democracy and divorce – 1990s

The 1990s is the decade that, when I looked back, seemed like a complete blank.  Of course, it was not.  South Africa went to the polls for the first time – as a united nation. This always takes me back to that time.

I left Johannesburg and followed my heart to the Eastern Cape where I started an entirely new life as a self-employed gig-worker.  With him, I moved to Cape Town. Married.  Had to start a new work network.  Again.  Then.  Divorced.

This was an essential and defiant anthem.

2000 and beyond

Sanatna, of course, featured for me in the 2000s.  Although this song came out in 1999, the album won a load of Grammy awards in 2000.  It was also in the last decade that Santana performed in South Africa.  A highlight, which I enjoyed with The Husband (we married two years into the new millenium – another story…).

At that show, Santana played not only Smooth, but one of my favourite – ever – guitar instrumentals and which I shared in that other post.

If I did have to pick a that sums up South Africa (and perhaps the world at the time) for that decade, it would be this one:

Then, for the current decade – which is still a toddler – dominated by nothing but probably world’s worst pandemic since the Black Death, if not the Spanish Flu.  I began the decade filled with hope for (yet another) new beginning… It’s a song and dance that somehow seemed to lift not just South Africa but the world.



I admit:  I’m not really “into” new music.  That said, we love local live music gigs – when we can.  We (The Husband and I) have a reputation of being both first. And last.  On the dance floor.

Long may we (all) dance.

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script

If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised applications.

  • From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here or on on the image below to sign up.

Original artwork: @artywink
  • lastly, graphics are created using partly my own photographs and Canva.


The soundtrack to my life – a kind of musical “back story”

An opening word – or three

I wrote this post as an experiment in November 2018 in response to a challenge:  pick one favourite song.  For me, that is a virtually impossible task.  I have favourites depending on my mood, what I’m hearing, the context, where I am… I delighted in rising to that challenge to which I rose.  A couple of years later, I responded to another challenge:  to write about my favourite lead singers, because when my erstwhile webhost disappeared – also in 2018 – this post went along with it.  When I “reconstituted” it in 2020, we were in the throes of a Covid lockdown.  It was a black period and I did little more than copy and paste it from the blockchain and repost it.

This time

The expriment worked – I’ll explain in a bit, but first, I’m revisiting it now for two reasons:  my blogpal, Traci, also plays in the crypto social space.  Twice a year for the last four years, she hosts Hive Blog Posting Month.   I have been a regular contributor for a while and have not just had fun, but have made new blogpals along the way.  She also offers a set of useful prompts.  I write what I like, generally, only occasionally checking in on the prompt.  One was about music that resonated.  As usual, I’m late to the party because not only did Traci’s own life soundtrack resonate with me, but it reminded me of mine and thought I should revisit it which was reinforced after reading this post from a self-proclaimed Mad Scot whose music seems to track (ha!) mine.

About this iteration

I mentioned that first reprise of this post was a copy and paste excercise.  With hindsight, I realise that I wasn’t really in a space to properly revisit it.  As I mentioned the other day, lockdown was a difficult time.  I – like the rest of the world – seemed to have been just marking time and going through the motions.  This time, I’m looking at my sound track with new eyes and listening with a clearer ear.

I am as interested as you (I hope) are, to see how things have changed or unravelled….


I wrote this in the third person:  it’s the first piece I ever wrote about myself using that technique.  I tried, and I think, succeeded in weaving my life story out of song and album titles.  I do use a little artistic license.  It was fun and, I’m told, makes a good read.  I hope it stands the test of time.


With her parents, she arrived On a Jet Plane (John Denver) in Johannesburg, South Africa – a little Puppet on a String (Sandie Shaw).  With a Locomotive Breath (Jethro Tull), the family took a train to Port Elizabeth (and got locked in a lavatory.  There, she made friends with Jennifer Eccles (The Hollies) and another Jennifer, Juniper (Donovan), but didn’t find Atlantis (Donovan).

The house my parents built in East London 1968. Originally, it consisted of the gable, and the chimney and the two windows to the left. This photo was taken in 2010.

After a while, the family moved to East London where she started school and met Pretty Belinda (Chris Andrews) whom, full of Sorrow (David Bowie) she left behind, when the family moved.  Again.  At the new school, she was Only the Lonely (Roy Orbison), and just had to Get Down (Gilbert O’Sullivan), and face her Waterloo (Abba), until she headed to boarding school.

So you think your schooling is phony….

Hostel dance – 1976 – only just a teenager

Boarding school was all about putting Another Brick in the Wall (Pink Floyd) and avoiding the Bad Moon Rising (Credence Clearwater Revival).  ZX Dan (The Radio Rats) kept her company while she yearned for an African Sky Blue (Juluka).

In those teenage years, she was a bit like Sandra Dee (Olivia Newton John) looking for Someone to Love (Queen).

Then, like Greased Lightening (John Travolta), her Rhinestone Cowboy (Glen Campbell) rode in, but he had a Heart of Glass (Blondie), leaving her with The Sounds of Silence (Simon and Garfunkel) in the Purple Rain (Prince).

Asking, I want to know what love is? (Foreigner), she finished school and the Wild Thing (The Trogs), Like a Virgin (Madonna) headed to university.

There she found herself in the Eye of the Tiger (Survivor), saying, Papa don’t Preach (Madonna).

On the beach…

What a Feeling (Irene Cara), those years of Ebony and Ivory (Stevie Wonder) when, with a lot of De Do Do Do De Da Da Da (Police), Time after Time, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (Cyndi Lauper), it was a Never Ending Story (Limahl).

Days of “study” and fun at university

Following her heart, Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm, in someone else’s (Silver Dream Machine), she nearly ended up as a Crash Test Dummy(s).  That episode did end up with her Making Love out of Nothing at all (Air Supply), and singing the Redemption Song (Bob Marley).

(Wo)Men at Work

Working 8 – 5 (Sheena Easton/Dolly Parton – take your pick)

The Long and Winding Road (The Beetles) led to Johannesburg – Starting Over (John Lennon) which ended with Love on the Rocks (Neil Diamond), making her Brown Eyes Blue (Linda Ronstadt).

It was also time to start working Eight Days’ a Week (Beetles), joining the Men at Work (Down Under).  So, Here comes Tomorrow (The Dealians).  In Sugarman‘s (Rodriguez) company, her Last Dance (Diana Ross) took her to Meadowlands (Strike Vilakazi) where she did the Pata Pata (Miriam Makeba) and pleaded, Give me Hope, Joanna (Eddie Grant).

The odd Weekend Special (Brenda Fassie) didn’t go amiss, either.

After a while, it was time to Beat It (Michael Jackson), take the Paradise Road (Joy) and Go West (Pet Shop Boys).  Not the best decision because Another one Bit(es) the Dust (Queen) because of a Careless Whisper (George Michael) – Tainted Love (Soft Cell).  Again (Doris Day). This time, Weeping (Bright Blue), she headed to Mannenberg (Abdullah Ebrahim/Dollar Brand) and found That Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Queen) that was Simply the Best (Tina Turner).

Love over Gold

It felt like Another Country (Mango Groove) in a Mad World (Tears for Fears) where Love is a Stranger (Eurythmics).

She Put(tin’ )on the Ritz (Taco), and began another Walk of Life (Dire Straits).  It was totally Perfect (Fairground Attraction), for which there could be no Substitute (Clout) and best of all, in a Funky Town (Pseudo Echo) that would keep her Forever Young (Rod Steward and Alphaville).

That Total Eclipse of the Heart (Bonnie Tyler) didn’t last.  He was a Karma Chameleon (Boy George).  It was time to go Out there on My Own (Irene Cara), and with London Calling (The Clash), she headed for Barcelona (Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé).  From then on, Believe(ing – Cher), it was going to be all Livin’ la Vida Loca (Ricky Martin).

It was More than a Feeling (Boston).

It was definitely The End of the Road (Boyz II Men).  She told him Don’t Bring me Down (ELO) and Jump (Van Halen).  She took The Long Way Home (Supertramp) after what felt like The Crime of the Century (Supertramp).  No such thing as Love over Gold (Dire Straits).

Against All Odds

The Husband and I, exchanging vows – 2002

Then, My Oh My (Van Halen), completely unexpectedly, at the end of a long Telegraph Road (Dire Straits) she found A Groovy Kind of Love (Phil Collins) that was full of Honesty (Billy Joel) that had her Dancing on the Ceiling (Lionel Ritchie).  Jabulani (PJ Powers) – happiness was the word.  She had found her Charlie (Rabbit) and he wasn’t a Man on the Moon (Ballyhoo).  He did want to Kiss her all Over (Exile) on a Bed of Roses (Bon Jovi).


Firstly, did you pick up the group, album, song title or lines from songs in the section headings?  If you didn’t this is each of them – in order:  Arrival – Abba; So you think your schooling is phony….is a line from Supertramp’s Crime of the Century (song and album); Men at Work – the band from Australia and, finally, Dire Straits’ Love Over Gold song and album. And finally, that iconic Phil Collins song, Against All Odds…

Secondly, I did stop the story where another story began 20 years ago.  I guess I might have to consider doing another post about the last two decades…

Finally, as I said, I was hard pressed (notice the joke, those of you who remember vinyl) to choose just one.  I have favourites that apply at different times and others that I hated and now love.  I thought that in my revision, I might change things.  I haven’t.  I have added more, and not just in the headings which I did with version two….

There are songs missing from this list and which I’d love to have included, like Johnny Clegg’s Asimbonanga (We have not seen him [Mandela]), but I really couldn’t work it in, but couldn’t leave it out, either.  It is up there with another evocative song from my youth, Bright Blue’s Weeping.  Both are iconic songs of the struggle against Apartheid.

However, I have saved my absolute favourite to the end.  It comes from one of the world’s greatest guitarists and whose music underpins virtually every stage of my life – from my teens, and until now.  Why this song?  I have no idea, but it resonated for me the first time I heard it in the summer of 1980.  At the time, I did not know that it was Santana, or the name of the tune – it’s instrumental.  It haunted me for years, and one of the first records I ever bought, was the Santana album that included this song.  I now have it on CD – the same album – along with a number of other Santana albums that are all precious and special for different reasons.  One of the memories and experiences I shall treasure forever, was seeing Santana live in South Africa – I had waited nearly 40 years.  It was worth the wait and every penny.  Especially when he played this.

If Santana visits South Africa again, I’ll move heaven and earth – again – to go.

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script

I am participating in @traciyork‘s twice-yearly Hive Blog Posting Month.

If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised applications.

  • From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here or on on the image below to sign up.

  • Join Hive using this link and then join us in the Silver Bloggers’ community by clicking on the logo.
Original artwork: @artywink
  • lastly, graphics are created using partly my own photographs and Canva.

Sandwich Memories

It seems I’ve written quite a bit about sandwiches over the years.  They were the subject of one of my earliest (and surviving) blog posts.

Fionas Favourite open sandwiches
Open sandwiches – 2014

Given that a sandwich is food – a filling – wrapped up – or between two slices of some sort of bread – I really have. Quite something given that about five years ago, I stopped eating bread:  commercial bread, anyway.  That’s a story for another time.

First memorable sandwich

My first real sandwich memory goes back to 1969 and my first day at school.  I think it’s memorable because, actually, the sandwich was not. Memorable.  I think.  That January morning, at mid-morning break, I opened my square, yellow lunch box and found a Fray Bentos sandwich.  I remember sitting by myself on the “playground” which was a tarmacadam tennis court.  I didn’t really know what was expected of me.

I heard a cacophony, not wanting to join in and retreated into my lunch box.

In it:  a single slice of white bread, cut in half and then cut again, into two squares.  Fray Bentos – with butter or margarine – on white bread – was my most frequent tea time snack for the next eight years.  The only variation was after we moved to Grahamstown.  In late summer, the garden produced a glut of tomatoes.  Soggy white bread and warm slices of tomato were not an improvement on Fray Bentos.

Boarding School

Going to boarding school introduced me to sandwiches of an entirely different sort.

Last year, at the behest of a school mate, I wrote about a tuck shop favourite. I alluded to the sandwiches that we boarders would get each day.  I specifically mentioned the egg sandwiches which were my favourite:  grated, with salt and pepper and on fresh brown bread.  My mouth is watering now, as I think about them.  They were a definite improvement on the Fray Bentos sandwiches.  In her defense, my mother probably slapped them together either the night before, after cooking dinner or after we moved to Grahamstown, as she cooked the family breakfast.

Of the variety of sandwiches we got at boarding school – different every day – my least favourite was peanut butter.  Just. No.  I’m not a peanut butter girl.  I’m not a fan of peanuts, period.  When they “happened” and, I admit, it wasn’t often, I just gave them a miss and/or happily passed them on to someone who lurved them.

More white bread

Still at boarding school, with seniority came certain privileges.  One of these was leave to leave the school property and walk either to the local bakery or to the hospital kiosk.  The latter was closer, but the bread wasn’t quite the same as from the Prem(ier Bakery).  We knew exactly what time it came out of the oven and if we timed it right, we could make it back to the hostel while the bread was still warm.  Back in the boarding house, armed with butter or margarine (I don’t remember which) and bags of salt and vinegar chips (crisps), we’d sit on our beds and make sandwiches.  They were out-of-this-world-delicious.  And crummy.  We did not care.

Truthfully, I have, in my adulthood been known to buy a sandwich with a packet of crisps and then proceed to open the sandwich and add the crisps.  Always salt and vinegar.  Only salt and vinegar.  For the crunch, you understand.

Back seat

After leaving school and at university, sandwiches didn’t feature. At. All.  Nor in my early working years until I worked for a company that had no canteen.  For a while, the tea lady, as a side line, made toasted sandwiches for the staff.  I remember their being delicious.  I remember, too, that that was the first time that I began to make soup.  Not like my mother’s.  Another story for another time.  Perhaps.

Twenty years of Lunch (mostly) sandwiches

When I started working from home – now more years than most people would like to contemplate – a sandwich was the logical, quick, on the run food.  Oh, but before that, and when I lived alone, bread and open sandwiches were essential for survival.  Toast and avocado remain one of my favourites.  For a while, I was lucky to work with someone who had an avocado farm.  For that year, I lived on avocado on toast.  It was never boring.  It would have been even more exciting had I discovered Mexican flavours and chilli.  However, in 1989, cuisines of the world were less known – an popular – than they are now. That said, I still love plain avocado, with a fresh slice of bread and butter, salt and freshly ground blace pepper  and Worcestershire sauce.  Also, incidentally, one of my Dad’s favourites.

Favourite unconventional sandwiches

Sandwiches cover a multitude of sins.

Fat cake

curry fat cake
Curried Vetkoek

Another favourite and not often indulged in – although we may… is the vetkoek.  It’s a traditional leavened dough that’s deep-fried and stuffed.  Often with curried meat.  It’s another tuck shop favourite from school.  It’s an iconic local streetfood.  It’s delicious.  The last time I ate one, was the day I got the jab was just last night.

At a farewell for Swiss swallows who’ll return for the summer later this year.

Flatbreads, buns and wraps

When I really applied my mind, I realised that we eat a lot of sandwiches – if I stretch the definition.

asian slaw, hummus, flatbread, naan
Flat bread with hummus and Asian slaw

Flat, or naan bread is a frequent menu item.

Then there are my tortilla trials.

Last but not least, the buns.

broad bean burger, sourdough, vegetarianSince I began my sourdough journey and I bake buns for the market, it’s an excuse to eat the iconic sandwich:  the burger.   I also make the patties: plant and meat-based.  The latter’s recipe a work in progress.  When I post it, I’ll edit this add the link here.

Musings about memories

I had not thought much about my school lunches until sandwich memories came up as a topic.  I also had not realised how indelible a memory that first-day-at-school sandwich was.  That memory was the first thing that jumped into my head. It’s a memory that makes me neither happy nor sad; I just remember it.  Perhaps it’s more about feeling overwhelmed in that playground.  In the crowd but not part of it.  It’s a feeling that’s persisted for most of my life.  Again, neither happy, nor sad but rather just the way it is.

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script

I am participating in @traciyork‘s twice-yearly Hive Blog Posting Month.

If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised applications.

  • From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here or on on the image below to sign up.

  • Join Hive using this link and then join us in the Silver Bloggers’ community by clicking on the logo.
Original artwork: @artywink
  • lastly, graphics are created using partly my own photographs and Canva.




Unicorns, bunnies and fishes: a reality check

I’ve not had a rant for a while.  My last few rants were more than a year ago.  I railed against aspects of the restrictions associated with the lockdown.  Truth be told, I was probably railing at the virus itself.  As if it gives a damn.  I might come back to that but I suspect we’re done with it. In more ways than one.

That said, it’s been a rough couple of years.  My work all but disappeared and my side hustles, bar one (blogging), hustled themselves into oblivion; one for three months, another for at least 18.  A third may never sidle back.  We shall see.  Those that have returned form, in combination, how we’re beginning to get back on track.  Sort of.  Very. Slowly.

With hindsight, the FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) we all felt in the early days of the pandemic, paralysed everyone.  I look back and other than those relatively regular rants, there is nothing.  I remember planting myself in front of my desk.  Every. Day.  Except Saturday and Sunday.  Then it was the couch.  With the laptop in front of me.  Having anticipated shifts in the economy and my working life (I wrote a little about it here), I brushed up my teaching knowledge and skills with a course on teaching English as a foreign language.  I passed with flying colours and was happily introduced to a slew of new and exciting online resources and tools.  The UK-based entity helped “graduates” to find jobs.  Or so they said.

Rabbit holes and dead ends

It was not help as I understood had expected it to be.  Rather, it was a jobs board and, I suspect that they benefitted from each placement;  there was no real effort to match a successful student with a suitable job.  During and after the course, I painstakingly set up a website, a wikki and profile after profile on so many sites I lost count.  Talk about a digital footprint…  I found myself down rabbit hole after rabbit hole.  I applied for online roles and did the mandatory (unpaid for) tests; sent the certificates, CV and blurb.


Well, that’s not entirely true:  the feedback suggested that I was one of a few things:  too old;  too diffident; over-qualified and to add insult to injury, South African.  The last suggested I was not a first language English speaker – even with a degree in English Literature (from a reputable university and which regularly “sends” proportionately more Rhodes scholars to Oxford and Cambridge than any other South African university), born in the UK and of British parentage.  It was all rather insulting, but I sucked it up. If there was feedback at all.

Many of the platforms expect one to upload share rather intimate information and then wait.  One even required a criminal check and when our local police station issued it, didn’t accept it.  Because it didn’t come from a “recognised private provider” which, incidentally, required a 200km drive to another city and an exorbitant fee.  (Which, in turn, begs more questions…)

The writing was on the wall

As the virus spread across the world, not only did everybody go home, but everybody went online.  What had been a very large pond, suddenly shrunk and was teeming with little fishies that were willing to work for next to nothing.  I’ll return to this.

Plan B

I did have a plan B – or so I thought:  I’d focus on online writing tutoring.  People still need to write and hone their skills.  I’d offer an asynchronous service that wasn’t time zone sensitive.  That didn’t work, either.  People don’t have to learn to write:  they make use of online tools, job platforms and writing mills.

If you can’t beat them, join them

If there is one thing I know I can do, and do well, it’s write:  for a range of audiences.  I returned to a couple of online gig platforms that I’d joined a million years ago before they had become ubiquitous, and, truth be told, still in the days of dial-up internet. I got a job:  in a writing mill.


It took me a while to work out two things:  rates are usually per word – completed.  No consideration is given to time involved in research, let alone revisions.  Rates don’t correlate for the country in which I live, but rather for countries where folk can survive on US $ 10 a day.  I kid you not.  They say so when they bid for work.  I need six- to seven times that.  Secondly, looking at the briefs:  coherent, quality writing is not the priority.  One erstwhile “client” had me write articles that never saw the light of day and had a modus operandi that is, at best, described as questionable.

Looking for local work was impossible:  the country had shut down and people were being laid off.  It didn’t matter that I live in a remote little village.

Remote jobs

When gigs didn’t materialise, I started applying for part time, remote jobs.  Part time because what I make from my stall at the village market, once it resumed in July 2020, paid the grocery bill.  One doesn’t throw the baby out with the bath water.  For a patch, I did have a job – locally – and for which I was hand-picked.  I loved it.  The company ironically, was a victim of the intra-pandemic, between lockdown-euphoria.  More lockdowns happened and the small, already vulnerable company had to downsize.

What I learned

I learned something very important:  I could potentially get a job and move away from gigs.  That, locally, my contribution was valued;  I am not too old.  However, this was not the space in which I had played for thirty years and although I have a prodigious portfolio of work, it is specialist writing, and I didn’t have a network in the creative sector.

I am a creative

Learning and embracing that I am a creative has been quite a thing.  I’d never been encouraged to think thought of myself as creative.  That was the preserve of artists, novelists and published writers.  Not play cooks and researchers who cook for a village market and write for other people. A fellow creative and photographer started connecting me with online groups.

Guess what?

I started finding work.  Not in spades and not at rates comparable with my old day job, but at rates recommended for the sector in South Africa. Equally important:  the work was valued.

I also discovered that the low level, casual design (as I’ve now learned to think of it) might earn me a couple of bucks.  No, I’m not trained, but my leaflets and flyers are good enough for an internationally acclaimed stylist and a former international photo journalist, so they’re good enough to start another portfolio.

Then, like with writing, the more I fiddle about – with real projects – the “betterer” I get.  That said, I am by no means an expert; I defer to the experts for real, professional graphic work.

Playing to one’s strengths

Having blown my own trumpet, about what I can do, I also prefer to play to my strengths.  There is a lot of truth in the expression, Jack (or Jill) of all trades and master (or mistress) of none. Similarly, the cautionary spreading one’s self too thin also applies. Related to that is the wonderful Afrikaans expression, goedkoop is duurkoop.  The literal translation:  that if one buys something that’s cheap, it ends up being a very expensive experience.  This last, by working for writing mills, I’ve learned, also works in the reverse.

What, on earth is she on about?

I am increasingly seeing advertisements for unicorns. The job specs are shopping lists:  employers and contractors will only consider candidates unicorns (their word). They must have expert skills and be qualified in everything from writing, newsletter creation, design and management, to virtual bottle-washing.  Literally and figuratively.  For a pittance. Applicants need need only two years’ experience.  To have honed those skills and acquired that knowledge, I’d hazard a guess, applicants need to have several qualifications and worked – without a break – 24/7, 365 days a year for the years they’ve studied and for those two years.  And, in (my perhaps not so) humble opinion, will still not have reached a level to be considered expert in all, let alone one of those specialities.

I know that because –

It’s only since I’ve been blogging – now into my ninth year – that my other writing skills have really developed.   And I’ve been writing – if I include my university years – for forty years.  Why only now?  Because I have been writing different things, experimenting and stretching myself.  Again, blowing my own trumpet, I can write.  Well.  Now.  Better than I could when I started my blogging journey.

Unicorns do not exist

Do these employers know that a unicorn is a mythical creature?

Anyone who is stupid enough applies for that type if position, I’d suggest, sets themselves up for failure the moment the honeymoon is over.  If one gets that far.

Having said that I’ve dabbled in design, I also manage my own and others’ social media presences.  Again, it’s low level and, to be honest, I’m not sure I want to reach expert level.

Why don’t I want to be an expert?

Because I like writing and I’m good at it.  I am already an expert.  Suddenly taking on jobs that get me out of my comfort zone is one thing – there’s plenty about writing jobs that do that – but diluting my focus, will neither earn me more, nor make me, from a client’s perspective, more productive.

Sunday supper preparation. Photo: Selma

Also, good writing takes time.  It’s an iterative process and, with some clients, can also be discursive.  Just like preparing a good meal or a training session, the 80:20 principle applies.  The time it takes to read a good piece, enjoy a delicious meal, or run a training session, is probably 20% of time it actually takes to write or

More Sunday supper prep. Photo: Selma

prepare any of those things.  If that.

That’s often the bit that readers, clients and diners (who don’t write, cook and host dinner parties), just cannot will not comprehend.


Accepting my fishy, rabbit status

Unlike mythical unicorns, there are certain fish and bunnies that are considered kind of real – Pisceans and Chinese rabbits.  Millions of people around the world follow their precepts.  I admit that when I read this, I do see elements of myself. I acknowledge that I’m an often flappy Pisces, chasing my tail.  Similarly, I see bits of myself in among Chinese rabbits.

Over the decades, along with writing, I have developed other skills:  like strategic and lateral thinking, planning and management.  I’ll not labour them except to make the point that along with writing, I can (and evidently do) add value to projects, which enriches my writing work.

I’ll stay my course, but don’t confine me to a single, narrow lane. As a more mature, experienced gig-working writer I plan to continue adding value, based on my qualifications, life and work experience where I am able.

I am no unicorn and nor am I super woman.  I’m happy with that.

That is my reality.  Check.

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script
If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised applications.

  • From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here or on on the image below to sign up.

  • Join Hive using this link and then join us in the Silver Bloggers’ community by clicking on the logo.
Original artwork: @artywink
  • lastly, graphics are created using partly my own photographs and Canva.


Sunday Suppers: A season past?

Around May 2017, around the time, my regular blogs became increasingly sparse, as one chapter in my life ended, and others began.  One of these was Sunday Suppers @ The Sandbag House.

Two years later we were still doing it. Menus went out weekly to a WhatsApp group and via various social media and e-news channels in the village.  The menu for the second anniversary supper, was the same, except for the soup.  The third anniversary, courtesy of the pandemic, didn’t happen.  We haven’t done a Sunday Supper, or planned a menu in over a year.

At around the time that we marked the first anniversary of Sunday Suppers, we implemented a suggestion from regular diners, and started a book in which they could leave notes.  It’s also an interesting and easy way to keep track – mostly of the countries from which our village visitors came.  In the those years, we hosted folk from England, Ireland and Scotland;  Sweden, Denmark and Germany;  Spain, Italy and India.  We welcomed old friends – from far and near – and made new.  I was surprised by university friends, neither of whom I’d seen since those days, who came to McGregor – especially for Sunday Supper.  That was a trifle nerve racking, I confess.  Then they recommended to friends, Sunday Supper @ The Sandbag House.  And the friends came.

The lovely notes that folk leave are a delight and add to my general enjoyment of cooking and feeding people

Not long into the journey, friend and photographer, Selma decided that she wanted to document (her word), a Sunday Supper @ The Sandbag House.  Her photographs are infinitely better than I could have wished.  We did have great fun and, I have forgiven her:

I don’t want to be in front of the camera, I whined.

You won’t be, she assured me, batting her blue eyes at me, smiling broadly.


She lied

All photos in this collage and the header image: Selma

I learned

I a great deal from Suppers @ The Sandbag House.  Not least that we could do it, and I learned that I could/can do things I never thought I could.  Don’t get me wrong, I have most definitely not morphed from being a home cook into a chef, but there is truth in the old adage, practise makes perfect.

At the beginning, not only do I like doing pretty tables, but I figured that if the tables were pretty enough, people would forgive the food.

Bottom left and top right photos: Selma

Like wine and cheese do, I improved over time

Perfection has not been realised, but there was most certainly a significant improvement in things like desserts – never my forté – and how they are presented.  I discovered that I can bake and make mousse.

The other thing I learned, was how to better manage portions and plating.  I went from slopping things about (or over diners – which nearly happened when we had a group of 10!), and serving vegetables ( that don’t get eaten) in side dishes (and wasted), to plating entire courses.

And now

As I said, thanks to the pandemic, Sunday Suppers came to an abrupt halt.  Now, and ironically last Sunday morning, I had a WhatsApp message:

I know it’s late, but can I book supper for three….

Politely, I recommended another establishment.  Which brings me to the next point:  we started Sunday Suppers because there was no spot in the village where folk could get supper on Sunday evenings.  Now there is.  At least one spot.  And we cannot do walk-ins.  And with Covid, and even vaccinated, would we be putting ourselves and our guests at risk?


I originally wrote this two years into Sunday Suppers and the original post went the way of many others.  I was going to simply re-post as is was.  Then that Sunday morning message and a subsequent conversation made me think and wonder.  Whether we’ll do Sunday Suppers is a question we’re now also asking.  I guess, well have to answer the question.  Properly.  Right now, the answer is:

I don’t know.

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script
If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised applications.

    • From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here or on on the image below to sign up.

    • Join Hive using this link and then join us in the Silver Bloggers’ community by clicking on the logo.
Original artwork: @artywink
    • I also share my occasional Instagram posts to the crypto blockchain using the new, and really nifty phone app, Dapplr. On your phone, click here or on the icon, and give it a go.

I changed my mind. I got the jab


Health is a personal matter until it’s a matter of public health. Like when the world is in the grips of a pandemic as it is now. I would not normally (I don’t think) share the sordid details of my illnesses. I qualify that because I suffer, happily, from rude health. The rationale for what I’m about to share is also not to change anyone’s mind, but rather to share why I did. Your choice remains your choice; your beliefs, are yours, too. I respect both.

A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing

When talk of the vaccine started, last year, I was anxious and skeptical. Through the work that I’ve done over the years, and again last year, I’ve learned the lengths (and time) it takes to get medicines from development to market. Partly because of this, and also living in South Africa, where we have the highest infection rate in the world, I’ve tracked the thirty-plus year journey to develop a vaccine against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Again, through my work, I’ve been exposed to had to work with the data.

Not enough information

I am not a scientist, but understanding the processes was enough to make me skeptical and scared that things – developing a vaccine – were being done in a rush. Mostly, I kept my own counsel. The Husband and I, both, at some point, said to ourselves each other:

Nope. I won’t get vaccinated, I’ll take my chances.

Like so many, that was before we knew, or knew of, people who had been afflicted, survived and/or worse still, died. That was also before there were known variants. A development that only surprised us in the rapidity with which changes are happening; all viruses mutate. That shocked us, as did the fact that with each mutation, this virus seems to get more vicious.

Besides anything, it was becoming increasingly evident that dying from, or living with, the long term effects of Covid disease didn’t bear thinking about. Two people in our local friendship circle, that we know of, have had the Delta variant, one after her first jab; both were very ill. The daughter of an acquaintance, remains fatigued. None of them wishes the disease on their worst enemies.

Paying attention to the news – some of it good

Like most people, I’ve paid more than passing attention to numbers and, as I mentioned, the vaccine “race”. More than that, though, are the stories reports of the extent to which this pandemic has stretched countries’ health systems: in South Africa, particularly in poor and under-resourced areas, as well as in other parts of the world.

More telling, though, is the fact that among the cohort of health workers who received the JnJ vaccine, and where there were breakthrough infections, only point zero five percent (0.05%) resulted in severe illness and death. The results are similar for those of us who have received the mandatory two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

The work started donkeys years ago

For at least the last twenty years, there have been public service announcements exhorting the population, particularly over a particular age, and with co-morbities (now we all know what those are…) to get the flu jab. Influenza is also a member of the corona virus family. All the research that has gone into the vaccines for Covid-19 is built on this solid foundation. And then some. The research into messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) is not new, or confined to Covid.

People developing the vaccine

In this country, we are privileged and proud – well I am – to be home to some of the world’s leading public health academics. They are doing important work on the pandemic. One, Glenda Gray, whose name I remember from the early 1990s and early (and ongoing) work in HIV has not only helped to secure vaccines for South Africa’s health workers, but is a leading researcher in the JnJ trial. Another, and who, until recently, played a significant role in advising the South African government, is now a member of the World Health Organisation’s Science Council.

Their calm, reasoned discourse has had a profound impact. That and constantly adding to my little bit of knowledge:

I began to change my mind. I did.

Then the vaccine roll-out

Here, as in most countries, the vaccination programme was rolled out in a triaged way, beginning with anyone over 60. The initial timeframe, saw me getting vaccinated sometime in 2022. I, like so many South Africans were disheartened, especially those not a “special” group like mine workers, teachers, or…. However, that has changed and just in the last two weeks, anyone 18 years old and up can get vaccinated.

Putting my phobia behind me

I am both needle phobic and have a terror of most things medical. Thanks to a bad experience in childhood and a three-week hospital stint after a car accident in my early 20s. In early July, just a day or two ahead of The Husband’s scheduled appointment for his jab in Robertson, the window opened for the over fifties. We decided that I should go along for the ride.

The near empty Callie de Wet Sports Centre converted to a vaccination site. Virtually empty early in July 2021.

With so few people turning out, it was a quick and easy in and out. Despite my phobia, I got my first jab. My Instagram “report” is here.

Six weeks later, as even more vaccination sites had opened up, I was due for my second dose and was designated to go to the local clinic. We both went.

The McGregor Public Clinic overflowing (in a socially distanced way) with folk getting their second jabs. The queue for the “first jabbers” was outside in the sun.

With many more people, it took a little longer, but it was still a relatively speaking quick, easy and mostly painless experience. That IG report is here.

Side effects

Neither of us has had a reaction. Other than tenderness on the injection site and for me, the first time round, a pretty sore arm. My sister-in-law, a health worker, experienced fever and headache after the JnJ jab. Another friend, fatigue after her first Pfizer jab. Yet another had, what the doctors suspect was a minor stroke, on two occasions, and each time, about three weeks after each jab; happily, she’s now recovered. We, and they, all say, rather that than severe Covid or death.

A reprise

In less than ten months last year, between March and November, I wrote eleven pieces that had either this virus, the pandemic and the associated fallout as the central theme. There’s a full list of them here. By and large, my views, other than on vaccination, have not changed and the fallout continues. And will for some time to come.

Part of an experiment

I acknowledge that we are all part of a global experiment learning: scientifically and socially. We can rail against it, but unless one has real power, there’s not a lot we can do about it. That said, there is some logic and sensibility to many of the restrictions. So, we (have to) obey the curfews and stick with the non-pharmaceutical interventions, stay safe and go with a sensible flow.

Getting the jab does not mean life has gone, or will go back to normal, or that we can drop the masks and consort with strangers. We are still in the throes of a third wave. There’s talk of the fourth – potentially in December. Again, for hospitality and tourism, the timing could not be worse.

We are fortunate in our little bubble to have been somewhat insulated from the pandemic but, as we have learned, first hand, breakthrough infections do happen. What the jab does, is prevent one from getting really, really sick, needing hospitalisation to be sedated and intubated or dying. Equally significantly, if I do get Covid disease, I am less likely to spread it to those around me, near and dear (especially) and not so dear. The vaccination means that I will have a lower viral load so I will not transmit the virus as easily.

I would still rather not – get the virus, be ill or spread it.

Looking forward

I want the village – and the world – to resume its normal traditional activities; to dance in the street again and wave the old year good bye. Hell knows, we’ve all had some bad ones.

The annual village tradition of dancing in the streets on New Year’s Eve. It has not happened since 2019.

I want the economy to recover. I need to work again. I want young people to be able to live and let live. I want to be able to celebrate milestones and inconsequential birthdays. I want to do more than share virtual meals. I want to want to put up the Christmas tree. We want to be able, and have the inclination to, invite folk around to break bread or for a gathering in the garden. Just because. We. Can. Again.

Herd immunity

The people who know, tell us that 70% of the world’s population must be vaccinated before this virus will be conquered. This COVID-19 Vaccine 101 Card and which you are welcome to download and share, helped to firm up my decision about getting vaccinated. It’s easy to understand and includes references and sources of more, and current constantly updated, information.

Looking back through my old photographs of times that were happier and more carefree, I realise more than ever that I want that – happy and carefree – for all our futures, again.

Getting vaccinated takes me (and us) one step closer.

Final word

This is just my opinion based on my reading, listening and learning. I made an informed choice and have shared some of the links to the information that made me realise that just a little bit of knowledge was dangerous.

For even more information –

In South Africa, visit the Department of Health’s Covid portal and/or the National Institute for Communicable Diseases. For readers from other parts of the world, the Center for Disease Control and Johns Hopkins are useful starting points.

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script
If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised appplications.

    • From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here or on on the image below to sign up.

    • Join Hive using this link and then join us in the Silver Bloggers’ community by clicking on the logo.
Original artwork: @artywink
    • I also share my occasional Instagram posts to the crypto blockchain using the new, and really nifty phone app, Dapplr. On your phone, click here or on the icon, and give it a go.

It’s no bull…

It’s a funny old world we live in.  As I write, we are in day 501 of South Africa’s National State of Emergency (aka lockdown), and thanks to the vagaries of the Interweb and erstwhile hosts, this is the second iteration of a post with this recipe.  The original post was three years ago.

How things have changed since then.

Back in the day

It’s strange looking back.  Those days seem, in so many ways, so carefree.  We invited strangers into our home.  Weekly.

As you know, I have, for the past eight or so years had a food stall at the local pop-up market, and for those who are not familiar with where we live:  McGregor is a village in the heart of the winelands and with about 650 households, dependent on tourism and agriculture.   It’s somewhat off the beaten track (you can read a bit more about it here). Four or so years ago, there was no eating establishment open on a Sunday evening, so I suggested to The Husband that we host simple (ha!) Sunday Suppers in our home.  A service to the community.

The groups would have to be small – the house is small and we’d have to re-arrange things to make it work as a pop-up restaurant.  Also, we are not fans of being forced to sit with strangers, so we were not going to do a long table.  That also presented certain challenges.  Especially in winter when we couldn’t possibly have people spilling on to the veranda and into the garden.

Well, you know, there are two old sayings:

You’ll never know until you try it


Be careful what you wish for

Sunday Suppers @ The Sandbag House

Then using yet another idiom, be careful of words spoken in jest:  Sunday Suppers, for a while, became a regular and expected thing in the village.  But I run ahead of myself.

Camera shy

About a week into this new adventure, good friend and fabulous photographer, Selma sent me a message.

“I’d love to document one of your Sunday Suppers.  Can I?”

“WHAT?  Are you out of your mind?  It’s complete and utter chaos.  I don’t think I want all that sin exposed.  Besides, I’m camera shy and most certainly won’t be dressed for success.”

“No, man,” says she, “It’ll be of your hands and the food, the table, and, of course, the cats.  Mostly the cats.  We do weddings, you know.  You cannot imagine the mess that goes on there, hahaha!”

That last bit is, of course, the most believable part of the statement.  So I discovered. After I was convinced.

“I’m going to be in the village because…, blah, blah, fish paste….”

I was persuaded.  Anyhow, she arrived in the village and said, “I’ll see you on Sunday.  What time do you start prepping?”

“Well, actually, I’m going to be doing quite a lot on Friday so that things are a bit more manageable on Sunday.”

“I’m on my way!”

So began my first (and only) ever experience of being in front of the camera and I do admit that I had fun.  Mostly because Selma loves what she does, is more than good at it, particularly persuading reluctant subjects to conform to her whims.  The results of the two days’ shoot are here and also appear in this and many of my other posts where they are duly acknowledged. She has given me a gazillion fabulous photographs to use.  And I did (and do):  virtually every time I put together the weekly menu which was posted in the local online newsletter and in the social media.

All photos: Selma’s and of that Sunday Supper earlier in July 2017.

Then, the food

Putting out the menus also meant that I got requests for recipes – from a Swedish guest (more of that another time), and from friends, as happened here:

So think about it I did, and here’s what I sent:

Slow cooker Oxtail

(serves 4 with mash)

1 oxtail (probably about 800g to 1kg)
4 – 8 carrots (peeled (or not) but left whole) – makes for prettier presentation (and they don’t turn to mush)
1 onion finely chopped
1 or 2 cloves garlic
vegetable oil
1 cup beef stock (250ml)
1 glass red wine (125 – 175ml)
1 bay leaf
Fresh / dried herbs of choice:  thyme, rosemary/McGregor Herbes de Provence
2 tablespoons seasoned flour (+ extra to thicken towards the end of cooking)
Salt & pepper

What to do

Roll the oxtail pieces in the seasoned flour to cover and then brown in a large frying pan or skillet, with a little oil.  Place in the slow cooker.  top with the carrots.  In the pan, add a little more oil if necessary and sauté the onion until glossy and transparent.

Add the herbs of choice and sauté for a little longer.  Then add the stock to de-glaze the pan.  Then add all the liquids to the slow cooker.  If the oxtail isn’t just about covered, add a little more water.

Cover and cook on high for about 5 hours. If you have more time (like 7 hours), set the cooker to on auto or low, and let it be.

About an hour before serving, check the consistency of the gravy.  If not to your liking, remove a little of the liquid and add it slowly to a dessertspoon (or more) of flour until you have a smooth paste.  Gradually add this to the stew and leave for an hour.  If you are using commercial stock (cubes), only add salt at this stage,  but if you add the potatoes, wait until just before serving because potatoes tend to absorb the salt.

Serve with mashed potatoes, the whole carrots and a green vegetable like beans or broccoli.

Download the recipe

A while ago, I decided (for my own convenience and yours, to create downloadable versions of the recipes I dream up.  The Slow Cooked Oxtail recipe’s available for downloading here.

If you download recipes, please follow the link buy me a virtual coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?

Of course, one could serve this with polenta or rice.  My friend served hers with rice (one of the children doesn’t like potatoes).  If you serve with mashed potatoes, give them a zing, and which I did last time I served oxtail for Sunday Supper, by adding about a tablespoon of wholegrain mustard to the mash.

So it was

For nearly three years, we opened our home to anyone, at least once a week and it’s no bull that, for a while, Sunday Suppers became a village fixture.

In the kitchen ahead of “Selma’s Sunday Supper” and in front of her camera that July 2017.

By the time guests arrived, the sin is mostly dealt with and guests were greeted with a warm fire (in winter) and pretty tables.

Just one of Selma’s awesome shots from that shoot.

A last word –

We still get asked if we do Sunday Suppers.  We haven’t since February 2020 because we’ve wanted to preserve our (mercifully Covid-free) bubble.  For the moment, our stock answer is that we might.  That said, the village now has Sunday dining offerings, so there’s no real need. For those who really, really want a Sunday Supper experience, we’ll make a plan:  with the proviso that there must be between four and ten to make it viable.

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script
If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised appplications.

    • From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here or on on the image below to sign up.

    • Join Hive using this link and then join us in the Silver Bloggers’ community by clicking on the logo.
Original artwork: @artywink
    • I also share my occasional Instagram posts to the crypto blockchain using the new, and really nifty phone app, Dapplr. On your phone, click here or on the icon, and give it a go.

What’s in a name?

What’s in a name? You may well ask.

My parents rarely, if ever actually called me “Fiona”, even though it was the name they chose for me.  My father only ever used my given name if he was getting serious about something.

For years I loathed it.


Thank you for asking. But first:

They chose the name because it was not common – or so they thought. At the time, nearly sixty years ago, in England, it wasn’t. Common.  Little did they know that some twelve to fifteen years later, in South Africa, I would be one of five Fionas.  In the same class at school.  Although they wanted to be different, they also tried to give me a family name:  Mary. After both my grandmothers. They were thwarted. The registrar of births, some how, just left it off my birth certificate.

When I was baptised, and the minister was doing the, “I Christen thee…”, thing, he also forgot.  For years, I lamented not having a middle name.  It presented quite a challenge when I had to fill in a million forms when I applied for a visa for a trip to the United States. Not only that, online forms generally don’t like double-barreled last names (a comparatively more recent acquisition), so the solution was to use half of my last name as my middle name. That said, do not ever call me Mrs Brown. But that’s another story.


I remain plain old “Fiona” with a double-barreled last name, who, until I was five and a bit, only ever answered to “Fi”. It was a bit of a shock, going to “big” school and having to learn to answer to “Fiona”. I did and I have embraced it.  Although didn’t realise how much until I discovered (only in the last year or so) that I resent it when someone I’ve just met, whether professionally or socially, instantly presumes to call me “Fi”.  The dissuasion, depending on whom and how, ranges between gently diplomatic to acid and a direct, “You can call me Fiona.”

Which brings me to its real meaning.

For years, and I was under the impression that Fiona was the Scottish Gaelic equivalent of Flora which does actually mean flower.  I’ll come back to this.

The photo below, of the plaque on our fridge, was a gift from my sister-in-law when she returned from a visit to Scotland.

Needless to say, my illusion of being a flower was shattered. “Fair”, though, I’ll take.  As I approach the last part of my sixth decade, I hope I live up to it. I could do worse.

But that’s not all:


Back to Flora

Flora was the Roman goddess of flowers and in Scotland, the Anglicised version of the Gaelic “Fionn”. So, there is a tangential connection, but not quite as my childhood memories led me to believe.  Perhaps it’s because the Flora we grew up with was a wonderful, madcap, legend of a woman.  She drove an ancient Ford Anglia until well into her seventies, smoked like a chimney, was always in court shoes and lipstick.  She constantly regaled with stories of how, with her double-jointed wrists, she delighted in upsetting first, her teachers and all through her life, people who irritated her.  She’d fold her hands back so that it looked like she had no hands…

Flora was this twelve-year old’s heroine.


Regular readers will know that I have a penchant for alliteration.  That, only tangentially, has to do with the name I chose for this blog and the handle I use on various social media platforms.  Its genesis dates back some nearly 30 years and to a time when I had no work, when I needed to find a way to both keep myself busy and earn.  At least something. About the only confectionary I could then bake with any confidence was biscuits.  So I made a million biscuits (cookies) for a little café in a village in the Eastern Cape.  They were my favourites.  Which is why I had developed the skill for baking them.

Fiona’s Favourites was born.

It was logical then, that when I started blogging – about food and recipes – also favourites – well, I just joined the dots.

It’s stuck and I’m in the process of adapting the label for my preserves by dropping the “s” so that it now reads “Fiona’s Favourite…” and it adorns all the preserves I sell, and my stall at the market.

Silver Flower

Recently, I’ve joined and play an active role in a crypto blogging community for folk who’re considered, like good cheese, best mature.  None of us embraces the “old” or “elderly” appellations.  I suspect none of us feels a day over 25.  Blogpal, @lizelle, who started the group, and who incidentally also runs a BnB, coined the name “Silver Bloggers”.  I rather like that:  silver has a multitude of connotations.

One of the features of the platform on which the community lives, is that its members can choose another handle.  Mine, you guessed it, is Silver Flower.  It harks back to both what I originally believed Fiona to mean, my love of flowers and my Scottish roots.

The Husband and I, nearly 19 years ago, and when got a middle double-barreled last name

Both our Scottish roots and my love of flowers are evident here.  The Husband and I on our wedding day:  he in the kilt and the flowers in this buttonhole, the South African equivalent of Scottish heather, and which are also in my bouquet of indigenous blushing bride.  I have loved blushing brides since I first saw a picture of them when I was about nine.  When I met them in the flesh, so to speak, I wasn’t disappointed.  That bouquet weighed about a hundred tons. I now realise that every bloom was probably grown at the top of the mountain above the village where we now live.  High in the Sondereinde Mountains behind McGregor is one of the few places they’re cultivated and home to one of the biggest exporters of these flowers.  At the time, it was also a conscious decision to marry (ha!) our heritage with our South African roots.

A last word

I do like it that in some cultures children are named for their parents, hopes and dreams for them.  Or for the auspicious days on which they’re born.  I know that each time I’ve named an animal feline child – after all, I am the Cats’ Mother – I’ve had my reasons for choosing their names.  Those, possibly, are stories for another time – along with a few others.

There is so much in a name:  love, loss, hopes, dreams and a life of being.

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script
If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised appplications.

    • From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here or on on the image below to sign up.

    • Join Hive using this link and then join us in the Silver Bloggers’ community by clicking on the logo.
Image: @artywink
    • I also share my occasional Instagram posts to the crypto blockchain using the new, and really nifty phone app, Dapplr. On your phone, click here or on the icon, and give it a go.

Embracing Silver, Gold and Onyx

I have been blogging since February 2014. That’s more than seven years, I now realise. It’s been an interesting journey that began, just focusing on food and recipes. Because of a chance remark on Facebook. It was not without trepidation that I registered on WordPress; it was at least a week, if not more, before my first post. Like with most first attempts, that’s a post best not revisited.


I have learned much, including about writing and taking pictures. That writing, when I’m into it, comes easily. I enjoy it and it can also be cathartic. I always knew the latter, but never felt confident enough to share it. That’s changing….

On the pictures, I’ve learned some techniques developed a lens. I’ve learned how to neaten and, to some extent, pretty up my photographs. I’ve learned that nothing is not a subject.

Something that, incidentally, applies to writing, too.

Grills on a window. Bespoke and beautiful.

Virtual communities

The pandemic, and the now ubiquitous existence, for many, of a life largely online, means that the concept of a virtual community is not entirely new. Anymore. I learned, back in 2014 that the blogosphere (as I learned to call it) is a microcosm of the world. It was a shock: I discovered trolls and bullies and which lead me to write my first piece about things other than food and fluff. I naively believed that all bloggers were nice people and had the interests of their peers at heart. That baptism of fire, if you will, and my own real life experience of bullying (about which I may still write), shaped my approach to the virtual world. It still does.

A fork* in the road

About four years ago, I joined a social blockchain and started crypto blogging.

*Yes, for my die hard blockchain readers, that pun was most definitely intended…

A social blockchain? Crypto blogging? What?

I’m so glad you asked!

It took me a while – like about a year – to work out what it is. I joined and fled for a while. Partly because I wasn’t in the “headspace” to make new friends, especially a new and foreign virtual space, let alone learning how to do basic mark down (coding). I was not in writing mode, either. Yes, writer’s block is a thing. Even if there is an endless supply of material.

Firstly, the social blockchain on which I play, is Hive. Secondly, because it’s a blockchain, you never lose your content, so you stake your claim to your intellectual property in perpetuity. It also means one thinks before one posts. Or should.

Thirdly, it has an underlying currency or token that can be bought, sold and, in my case, earned; hold it on the blockchain, cash it out or do a combination of all of these. I don’t even pretend to understand more than the principles, so you’ll find a more authoritative explanation here. For someone who doesn’t have any spare money lying around to invest in what many suggest is a dodgy world, I had nothing to lose, continuing to blog on this type of platform.

Hive, some in this new world space, suggest, is innovative and a disrupter.

Another driver behind my blogging

There’s another reason why I broadened my blogging purveiw. In addition to sharing recipes, and along with discovering that I enjoyed writing, it made sense to “monetise” it and potentially extend my capacity to earn. That is actually a very difficult thing to do. One needs to have both (a) voice(s) and a portfolio; one has to sell one’s self. Hard. Best of all, is finding one’s self in the right place at the right time. That last doesn’t happen often, so given the opportunity to build a portfolio, earn from writing what I like, without too much of the “sell”, and build a little nest egg was a no-brainer.

So how can one earn on a crypto social blockchain?

This is my still lay understanding of how things work.

The first thing to remember is that every action on the blockchain is a transaction that costs. One is allocated a certain number of (resource) credits that one “spends” on activities. Some of these activities, like blogging, commenting and voting, generate rewards. Saving the rewards from those activities builds one’s stash (wallet) and one’s status (power) on the blockchain. This is a summary from an old post (on the first iteration of this blockchain) of how to earn:

Create content (posts) and/or you curate by voting and commenting on posts.

  • These transactions come at a cost and with a return:
  • one earns and is rewarded in different proportions in three ways.

The first two are liquid and can be traded on and off the blockchain via exchanges:

  • Hive token
  • Hive Based Dollars (SBD) – these two can be used to buy
  • Hive tokens
    Hive tokens left in the blockchain, are known as Hive Power which is also generated in the process. To “power Hive (and draw it) down, is in itself a process and subject to delays – rather like a call account. Part of the reasoning behind this is to build the big asset using little people investors like me.

And then there’s more –

I don’t have a cherry to put on top, so homemade Malva Pudding will have to do.

The more Hive one has, the greater the value of one’s votes (likes), and to add to the complication, that, one gets rewarded for voting, sharing (re-blogging) posts on the blockchain, and by commenting on other people’s posts.

Silver Bloggers: “my” virtual community

I mentioned communities. The name, Hive, is apt. The activity on the blockchain and between people is analogous of those most social of insects, bees. Like a beehive, it also includes chambers or (sub)communities.

Communities began emerging, well, it doesn’t really matter when, but for me, I found them a challenge.

I don’t like to be boxed and pegged. I don’t relish being told what I may or may not think. I will agree to differ and respect different views.  I am happy to be persuaded into a new way of thinking.  With my eclectic range of interests and my penchant to warble on, I had difficulty finding a niche. I dabble, dip my toes and generally blunder about. I’ve made virtual friends (real ones) and developed a following (who would have thought?).  There was no community in which I really felt “at home”.

It’s only in the last while, and since fellow South African, Lizelle, started a community that I’ve begun to feel more comfortable. Part of this is because of the interesting, international and eclectic bunch of people who subscribe. We are all over 40 (and most with a lot of tax, too), so we’ve been round a block (or five). It seems to be a kinder and more embracing space than some that I have encountered. I think it’s because life has knocked us all around a bit. The rough edges are softer – mostly. I speak for myself.

Embracing change, innovation and the inevitable

The folk in the Silver Bloggers community, like most of the world, are encountering change all the time. Many of us are at the cusp of significant life changes and approaching what some like to refer to as our autumn years. Whether we accept that or not, is neither here nor there, it’s often foisted upon us.

We’re not digital natives.

I like to think that our capacity for embracing crypto blogging on a social blockchain shows that those of us who grew up with actual telephones and lived (and mostly still do) without smart technology, prove that age is merely a number; silver hair is just genetics – or like blonde often is – from a bottle.

Speaking for myself

My future does not include retirement, not being busy and not earning.  Besides the fact that not earning, right now, is not a choice, I enjoy what I do.  Mostly.  How I long, with thirty years’ life experience to “do” the twenty-somethings again.  My head and my heart are willing.  The rest, including the twenty-somethings, not so much.


The silver (gold and onyx) I embrace, are less about the changing colour of my hair than of the felines that rule our home.  Starting with silver: Gandalf the Grey who likes to think he owns me.

Gandalf has a shoe fetish

Gandalf regularly embraces me and his foot and shoe fetish.  Ahem…

Rambo the golden ginger

The golden ginger:  I have yet to physically cuddle Rambo, the ranging and still sort-of-feral tom cat that six months later, is embracing domesticity with aplomb. He’s not ventured on to a lap or a bed. Yet. We suspect it’s a matter of time.

Princess Pearli – collared in 2014

Princess Pearli, the onyx and black pearl arrived in 2014. Her arrival coincides with the beginning of my blogging journey, including an early foray into humorous writing, and brings me to why I’ve warbled on.

A last few words

I admit that I have more than a passing involvement in the Silver Bloggers community:  Lizelle invited me to join the leadership team. I accepted and it is a role I am relishing and in which I continue to learn. Every two weeks we announce a topic around which we encourage folk to create content. Anything goes – even tangential. I wanted to make that point and to mention two things –

  • I tend to keep Hive business on Hive, but there comes a time that the two connect, like now, so the second thing:
  • the crypto blogging social platform is no different from other parts of the blogosphere in terms of how people engage.  I tend to think of it as a combination of WordPress (or any other blogging platform) and Facebook on steroids, without ads and a better return.


  • Depending on the crypto market, one earns something and/or builds an asset (that’s not financial advice, it’s merely part of my lived experience).
  • One gets more eyes – I have nearly a thousand followers on Hive, but fewer than 350 on WordPress – with the connected “other” social media.
  • One’s work never disappears into the ether – even if your web host does. I learned that the hard way and which is why my series about Pearli’s Pickles and other posts are no longer here.
    As an aside: I am thinking about turning those (that are on the blockchain) into a “proper” series of stories…
  • If you think you’re too old to learn coding or markdown: you’re not. I have learned a lot – by osmosis. But now, four years down the line, you don’t have to because there are other interfaces with the blockchain that make it unnecessary.

I am learning that even if others think I’m ancient, I am most definitely not too old to be part of the innovative and constantly developing world of blockchain and crypto.

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script

  • If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:
    • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I plan to add them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
    • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.
  • I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised appplications. From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here or on on the image below to sign up.

Image: @traciyork
  • Join Hive using this link and then join us in the Silver Bloggers’ community by clicking on the logo.
Original artwork: @artywink
  • I also share my occasional instagram posts to the crypto blockchain using the new, and really nifty phone app, Dapplr. On your phone, click here or on the icon, and give it a go.