Beleaguered and Confused

I am not sure where to begin. Today is the one-hundred-and-twenty-somethingth day since South Africa went into a lockdown. Of these, some five weeks were a hard lockdown to retard the community transmission of the novel corona virus that causes COVID-19 disease. More importantly, it was to buy time to prepare the country’s health facilities for the onslaught that was inevitable.

It’s about six weeks since I last had something to say about “the situation”. In South Africa.  The world.  Not because it doesn’t occupy a fair bit of my waking (and sleeping) mind, but because it’s becoming less of a “thing” and more of a thing.  It’s reached our village and we’ve moved between zero and three cases at any one time.  As far as I know, all cases have recovered.  That said, the woman who helps me in the house has lost four members of her extended family.  One of my best friends, who lives in Johannesburg, has had symptoms but these weren’t deemed sufficiently severe for a third test.  Notwithstanding the killer headache.  She went into self isolation and happily she is fine.  As I write, a contemporary from school is in a living hell.  Her husband has been in an induced coma for the last two weeks.  He still is.  Today Sunday’s update was that there was improvement to his heart and liver but that his lungs were still “70% saturated with the covid infection”.

A look at the numbers

Six weeks ago, there were thirty six thousand confirmed cases in South Africa.  Now there are more than four hundred and twenty thousand.  Nearly 40% have required treatment and 0.1% have / are critical and needed ICU treatment.  That’s a total of five hundred and thirty nine people.  Those are not overnight stays.  They are prolonged stays.  My friend’s husband still has weeks ahead of him.  First in ICU and then…

Covid-19 figures as at 25 July 2020: The world and South Africa

We haven’t reached the peak of the pandemic in this country or, it would seem, in the world.  The curves are still rising.

South Africa’s confirmed cases and recorded deaths – March to July 2020. Source.

Yes, there are regions and countries that seem to have things under control, but the fears of second waves remain.  The EU is planning for that eventuality. Notwithstanding any advances in the development of a vaccine and/or treatments.

Doubling down up – it’s a complicated, fickle disease

Infectious diseases spread rapidly.  That’s stating the obvious, but it bears repeating.  I keep on hearing people questioning how the numbers can double so quickly.  Well, just think about it:  Dad gets home from work.  Kisses mom hello.  Dad kisses the two kids good night.  The kids cuddle granny the next day.  Dad (one person) came home with the virus.  He has potentially given it to another four people.    If all four are infected with enough of the virus to become infected and infectious, they will spread it.  Granny will cuddle the other grandchildren.  Mom will go to work and potentially infect her co-workers, and so how many people infected – from just Dad?  All this complicated by the reality that the children may never display symptoms or get ill. Or be diagnosed. But will be infectious.

None of this is new.  It’s what all the authorities are saying and it’s also why the World Health Organisation did an about turn on wearing cloth face masks.  The thing is:  even with, in South Africa, a more than 60% recovery rate:  if people get sick, they get very, very sick.  For a long time.  In hospital.  It’s a horrible disease and it takes a long time to recover.


When I marked twenty one days of lockdown, I lamented the heavy handed conduct of the authorities.  I celebrated being able to cook with wine.  I noted that contrariness regarding tobacco sales which had simply descended into the underworld and that all the smokers I know are still smoking.  At extortionate prices.

Yes, that’s a teaspoon and a minute plastic bag of tobacco.

This tiny baggie of tobacco in which our gardener indulged, and from which he’d already had one entjie (little end), cost him R30 (just over $2).  He would get another entjie from that last bit.  He is a casual worker who eventually found his birth certificate that enabled him to register for food parcels for his family – only two weeks ago.  In the meantime, when he had money, tobacco took precedence.

Worn down

On day 54 of the lockdown, I said I was tired. On day 125, I’m not just tired, I’m worn down and confused.   I know I’m not alone.  We went from a lifting of some restrictions and feeling not quite so hemmed in because there was no curfew and we could excercise and take the odd day trip.  Then, suddenly, just like that, on a Sunday evening about two weeks ago, boom!  the President announced the reinstatement of a curfew, toasting it with a ban on alcohol sales.  I can no longer cook with wine.

Needless to say there is an ongoing hue and cry:  when the ban was lifted on 1 July, there was a more than 60% increase in alcohol related trauma.  This stretched, certainly in my home province, the already strained high care facilities.  So, I do get it.

It’s also common knowledge that there is an “alcohol problem” in South Africa.  As with smoking, though, it’s about a third of the population that drinks, and amonn them, very heavy drinkers. As with smoking (she repeats herself), it’s the minority who ruin it for those who drink moderately enjoy an aperitif and/or a glass of wine over dinner.

It’s not only booze

After the hard lockdown, restaurants remained unable to sell and serve alcohol.  Initially they could offer takeways and then were permitted to host diners to enjoy a meal. At COVID-19 standard social distances.  Suddenly, an 9pm curfew means in the cities, that kitchens probably have to close at 7pm and staff leave for home by 8pm.

“Dinner service?” I hear you ask.  Well, exactly.

Oh, and leisure accommodation may not accept guests.  Business travellers, yes.  You can take a trip into the country, in your home province, but you can’t stay over.  Oh, and I can go to church, and I can sit in a café and have a coffee, with complete strangers, but I can’t visit my friends who are family.  Let alone family.

Tail wagging the dog – in the taxi and at school

Oh, and I can sit in a minibus taxi – also with complete strangers – full to capacity – as long as the windows are open.  Because the industry threatened to shut down the country if they couldn’t operate at 100%.

Schools are out.  Again. Because the teachers’ unions are afraid for the children that the children might get ill, infect the teachers and/or take the infection home to granny and grandpa.

Like teachers don’t bring the virus to school because they don’t ride in taxis or go to the shops to buy food to feed their families?

As a former educator and with a lifelong interest in education, I know this is doing almost as much damage to this generation of scholars as is the virus.  South Africa can ill afford yet another lost generation.

Where is she going with this?

Well, you may well ask and getting back to the booze:  the point is about more than the alcohol.  It’s about the value chains. Yes, plural.

Let’s look briefly at one that’s rather close to home:  the wine industry.  Our village is in the heart of the winelands, so let’s start in the vineyard, where people, led by viticulturists, work to tend the vines and pick the grapes to take to the cellar.  The grapes are pressed and the juice nurtured to turn into fine wine – using equipment and vats and barrels – by highly skilled people. Then it must be bottled and labelled.  The equipment in the vineyards and cellars must be procured and maintained.  Bottles and lables must be sourced from producers.

This, all before the wine even hits a retail counter in a cellar, bottle store or bistro.  The knock-on effects on livelihoods are no less devastating than COVID-19.  And as exponential.  This is just one element of the tourism and hospitality sector.  There is a myriad of others.

Losing more than money

The South African government is also losing money and face.  In an op ed piece, the Premier of the Western Cape anticipates the loss of two hundred and forty thousand jobs.  Just in our province.  Two people in my close circle have businesses that have either not launched, and/or not functioned because of, the lockdown and specifically the alcohol ban.  No income for going on five months but still having to feed, clothe and meet the ongoing obligations of maintaining premises?

In the face of rampant government corruption associated with the pandemic and over the past more than ten years.

Then, when the hospitality sector holds a peaceful demonstration, the conduct of the police is reminiscent of the apartheid era, I am just simply at a loss for words.

Illogical paradoxes

I still don’t know where I’m going with this, and I’m not sure anyone really understands what lies behind the mixed messages emanating from the powers that be.  As a Piscean, I’m known for chasing my tail and flapping about before making a decision.  I like to think, though, that when I’ve made a decision its mostly on logical and solid ground.  I then stick to my guns.  What’s going on around me continues, it seems to me, to be a slippery slope and a recipe peppered with very little common sense.

And now?

The legislation governing the state of disaster under which South Africa currently exists, provides for the government to continue extending the declaration every month for as long as necessary.  It has been extended to mid-August.  Looking dipassionately at the numbers and listening to the daily announcements of confirmed cases of between ten- and thirteen thousand, even I can see that the numbers have not peaked in South Africa.   Those who know much more than I, say so, too.  It begs the question:  how much longer will we be living in a constant state of confusion and incoherence?

What I’m doing to cope

I miss seeing the people I care about.  I miss going to my regular places. I’m not sure I’m coping.  I am doing.  Keeping my head down and diligently doing the bit of work I’ve (happily) found, and looking for more.  I am grateful that the McGregor Saturday market has begun again.  It means that after three months, suddenly, my week has shape again:  kitchen day is back.  There is one day in the week when I must get out of bed and wear something other than sweat pants because there is somewhere to go, and people to see.

With a new addition to my market repertoire:  sourdough rolls.

More of “mother”, sourdough bread and rolls, anon.

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

Photo: Selma


Post Script

In yet another aspect of my life, I offer

English writing, research and online tutoring services

writing – emails and reports, academic and white papers
formal grammar, spelling and punctuation
more information here

And then there’s more:

  • 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 because of this.
  • If you’re interested in a soft entry into the world of crypto currency and monetising WordPress blog, use the fantastic Steempress plugin to post directly to the Hive blockchain.  Click on the image below to sign up
  • I also share the occasional my instagram posts to the crypto blockchain using the new, and really nifty phone app, Dapplr.  On your phone, click the icon below, and give it a go.

  • I also share the occasional post on Medium.


Common sense: Not so common

On 1 June 2020, South Africa moved to level 3 of the measures in terms of the National State of Disaster to curtail the spread of Covid-19.  There are a few people suggesting that it’s the end of lockdown.  When the President made the announcement, he advised that the details would be made clearer in “the coming days”.  At the end of the 45 minute address, there were two – no three – takeaways. For me, anyway:

  • the primary purpose of the lockdown had been achieved:  a sufficient slowing of the spread of the Corona virus that causes Covid-19 to enable significant preparation for the inevitable and ongoing increase in acute cases.
    Every citizen must now take personal responsibility for not catching the virus by following the social distancing and hygiene protocols to stop the spread.
  • everyone would go back to work (working from home if it is possible to do so).  It will be business as usual: except for leisture tourism and hospitality
  • schools will re-open, beginning with the two exit years at year 7 (into high school) and year 12 (into the world of work or post school education and training)

Oh, but wait, there was one more:

I can cook with wine.  Again.  My smokin’ friends, however, still cannot light up and have a puff.

Alcohol will be on sale on specified days, in specified hours.  I’ll come back to this.

A quick look at the numbers

As has always been predicted, the numbers of Covid cases in South Africa is growing exponentially.  When I last did a numbers update, the world had 3,2m cases.  Now there are nearly 6,5 million.  In South Africa, we have gone from a mere five thousand odd five weeks ago, to nearly thirty six thousand.

Covid-19 figures as at 30 May 2020: The world and South Africa

In Cape Town alone, just a two and a half hour drive from where I live, there are nearly 1,000 cases in hospital and more than 194 people in ICU (Source).

Cause for pause

Prior to lockdown and the preparation for the onslaught, there were a mere 150 ICU beds in Cape Town’s public hospitals.

That metropolitan area, along with another rural municipality in the province, are the identified “hotspots”.  In our municipality, the number of cases has gone from 4 to 35 of which 27 are active (i.e. 8 recoveries, source).  To date, there is still no case in the village.  We know, though, it will come.  It’s inevitable.

It was initially predicted that South Africa’s Coved-19 outbreak would reach its peak around September.  Cape Town, however, is now expected to reach its peak at the and of this month or the beginning of July.  The concern about sufficient number of beds remains.

In case you’re wondering why I’ve not included the number of tests conducted world wide:  there are conflicting figures and a well-documented shortage of test kits.  In South Africa there’s a ten-day backlog and they’re using a triage system to identify who should be tested.  So, what’s the point?

In the “coming” days

In the days following the President’s statement, but prior to the briefing from the various ministers, the President again addressed the nation.  This time, he said it was to call for a national day of prayer.  In reality, it was to inform the population that in the interests of their spiritual health, from 1 June, they would be free to attend their places of worship. Gatherings may not exceed 50.  There must be attendance registers and temperature screening.  These registers will collect not just names and addresses but details of next of kin.  This information will, of course, be used for contact tracing.  That is logical and sensible.

What else?

I am, though, left asking myself:  where else will this data go and for what else will it be used?  When the pandemic is over.

In a country that has a “command council” coordinating efforts to curtail the pandemic, and where abuse of power is all too common:  under level 1 lockdown and which I mentioned in a previous post, and continuing under level 2 and when a a parent stepped on to the beach to fetch a child..

I alluded to some of the questions about personal data in this post, and when I linked to this inteview with Edward SnowdenIf you didn’t follow the link then, do it this time, and listen to the interview.  It’s even more relevant, two to three months later, than it was then.

More burning questions

Places of worship are internationally acknowledged as major contributors to the spread of the virus.  If these can function, with congregations of to 50, why not open restaurants and coffee shops?

With the same provisos:  social distancing and fewer than 50 patrons?   South Africa may have a religious people, but we are a secular state.

What about personal care businesses and tattoo parlours?

All these establishments have, in terms of their training, good business and good sense, to apply good hygiene and sanitary practices. Ergo less risk of spread.

Oh, and on the issue of collecting names and addresses of “attendees”, names and addresses are not collected when one visits the supermarket, hardware store or the bank.  Not that I’m suggesting they should be.

Then there was more

When the ministers responsible for the various sectors of the economy eventually briefed the country, a few things remain as clear as mud:

One can exercise at any time of the day.  Non-contact sport is playable.  But the golf and tennis clubs cannot be open.  Inter provincial movement is prohibited, but you can go and visit a game park – as long as you drive yourself.  It’s still not clear whether one may visit family or have a few friends (who are family) over for lunch.  One minister says “Aye” another says “Nay”.

Then, restaurants, previously only allowed to sell alcohol when it was consumed on the premises, may now sell sealed bottles of their patrons’ favourite tipple to take home.  During the same days and times that any other off-consumption outlet may sell alcohol, viz., Monday to Thursday between 09h00 and 17h00.


It precipitated an outburst from me on my personal Facebook page:

Restaurants & pubs selling alcohol for home consumption – these things spring to mind:

They have to charge restuarant prices to make it worth their while. What patron will pay those prices when it’s possible pay much less from bottle stores and from grocery shops?

As they also have to sell alcohol, for delivery and collection, during the specified times, so other than lunch orders, no wine pairings…

And little [village] pubs: do they have the buying power to buy alcohol at discounted rates? More to the point, do they still have the reserves to buy in stock? I am sure there are other things I can’t think of right now…

I have long thought that those in government have less than no idea how business really works, especially small businesses and where people are self-employed and/or freelance.

People who get monthly salaries from our taxes have no clue what it takes to actually make money, i.e. generate a product or service that customers buy and which pays not just the business’s bills, but people’s wages and salaries. Money doesn’t appear in our bank accounts by magic each month.

Emphasis added

The rant precipitated a response from longtime friend and former partner in one of the big (and credible) international accounting firms:

 I ran a corporate finance boutique in the late 90s and early 2000s. I learnt then that the guys in government have no clue what cash flow for a business means. This is (sic) becomes quite acute when you have a contract with them. Scope variations, late payments, and other horrors were the order of the day.

Every month-end, however, the same government officials were happy to receive their salaries with compliments from the tax payer.

The guys making decisions over the citizenry have no clue as to how reality is on the ground.

Pop Motsisi

From my old day job:  this scenario that was a reality with virtually every contract awarded to either my business or to associates’.

Economic ruin

We all get that the world economy is getting sicker, and in this country, the situation is dire.  Since I started writing, there has been a High Court judgement declaring the regulations pertaining to levels 3 and 4, unconstitutional.  While the country’s top constitutional expert believes the judgement is flawed, the principle remains:  this whole “thing” hasn’t been thought through.  There seems to be a profound inability to make connections, think laterally, let alone rationally.  Especially in a country where the unemployment rate sits at nearly 30% and of that number, nearly 60% are unemployed youth (Source).

Forty odd years ago, when I started taking Geography seriously, I learned that primary industries, and specifically, mining and agriculture were the greatest contributors to the country’s economy.  Now, those two, are second only to services which contribute just on 24% of the country’s GDP (Source).  The lockdown has seen the mines closed and now slowly reopening with all the challenges of this rampant disease.  Other than “essential” retail, the only services that continued were financial banking services.

Effectively, the economy was shut down for two months.

What constituted essential retail was the source of endless discussion:  under level 1, we could only buy food.  It was a fight to “release” sanitary items other than toilet paper on to the shelves.  Only after significant pressure was one able to buy baby clothing and infant supplies.  Then only for newborns and to a particular age.  It seems that the powers that be understand that babies’ arrival won’t wait for lockdown to be lifted, but that children will just stop growing and start again when the lockdown is lifted.  Under level 2, only certain specified (I kid you not) items of clothing could be bought.

Covid relief – is it?

Oh, the banks have given us a bond holiday.  But they’re not going to lose:  the debt will just be re-scheduled and re-calibrated and it’ll cost us the same…. Their only loss:  less interest because the central bank reduced the interest rate.  Banks have not dropped their lending rates, have they?

The government has similarly made relief packages available for small businesses with turnover below ZAR 300 million. Ahem…  However, of those that qualify, and which have applied, nearly 70% have been unsuccessful.  Entities that do not qualify are sole proprietorships.  Given high barriers to entry, and the cost of maintaining a business entity, the sole proprietorship is the simplist and cheapest entity to establish.  Within my own circle, I know of individuals and entities, alike, that have simply not tried to seek relief:  we know from past experience, the bureaucracy and hoops through which they must jump just to apply.  Here’s a specific example:  a friend established a pre-school nine years ago.  She has put her heart and soul into it, and until Covid-19, it was very successful.  She was planning a celebration of ten years early in 2021.  Because of the lockdown, she’s considering closing it.  Then, last week, there was a glimmer of hope for some compensation for work done – in line with the requirements of the relevant  government department.

Hopes dashed

But no, all hopes were dashed because the type of entity in terms of which she operates, is not deemed appropriate.  Early childhood centres may still not operate.  Yet parents must return to work. Where’s the sensibility in that?


Speaking of sensibility, there is at least one political party, claiming to be economic freedom fighters that wants the hard lockdown to continue.  I am not making this up.

Back to my Facebook rant and the subsequent comment which corroborated what I was trying to say:  that, by and large, politicians and government have no real concept of the mechanics of running a business.  Did they really think through the implications of permitting restaurants and takeaways selling booze for home consumption?  Do they really think that this will rescue micro businesses that have not had any turnover (let alone income or, heaven above, made a profit), for two months?

Lockdown or lock up?

So, while for some people, things are returning to normal:  they go to work every day, and come home to an evening tipple.  However, for some in the hospitality and tourism sectors, the lockdown has ended.  I wonder how many face the prospect, like my friend, of locking up shop, for good?

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


Post Script

In yet another aspect of my life, I offer

online English tutoring services

every day conversation and formal presentations
writing – emails and reports, academic and white papers
formal grammar, spelling and punctuation
more information here

And then there’s more:

  • 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 ko-fi?
    • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts because of this.
  • If you’re interested in a soft entry into the world of crypto currency and monetising WordPress blog, use the fantastic Steempress plugin to post directly to the Hive blockchain.  Click on the image below to sign up
  • I’m still blogging on Steem with the occasional post on Medium.


I’m tired….

I’m tired.

I’m tired of being in lockdown.

I’m tired of people supporting the lockdown.

I’m tired of people not supporting the lockdown.

I’m tired of people railing about “the situation” before they’ve read all the facts.

I’m tired of the mixed messages from our leaders – local and international.

I’m tired of listening to learned people telling us that they’re learning that they don’t know what they don’t know. Every day.

I’m tired of hearing the numbers. Every day. They are awful.

I’m tired of people dying. All over the world. All day. Every day. So far, none of my near (or far) dear people have died. But I’m hearing of people whose dear ones are ill and might die.

I’m tired of this virus. It has developed a vibrant life of its own that has taken over mine. I’m not ill, but it’s making me sick. It’s the last thing I think about as I go to sleep. It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up.

I’m tired of spending every day – and I mean every day – and a signficant portion of it – in front of the laptop. I’m trawling the interweb for work, bearing my soul listing my skills for all and sundry. Because my business has gone down the tubes. Just when things were looking up. Every gig has come to an end.

I’m tired of having to reinvent myself. Again.

I’m tired of stretching each penny as far as it possibly can.

I’m tired.

One in 58 million

I’m only one in 58 million in this country.

There are many in that 58 million for whom I feel and, today, one in particular. Last evening, following a week of clamouring, the President addressed the nation.

Did he impress me?

No. Not this time.

I did learn, though, that the level of preparedness has improved.

I appreciate the acknowledgement and apology that the government has potentially overreached and contradicted itself.

I hear that things are under review and that the country could be moved to level 3 at the end of May.

It’s not enough. I’ve said I don’t agree with everything he’s done. Yes, I think he’s missed a few things and is lead astray often overruled by pedants.

Think about this: we’ve been locked down for 49 days. It’s 70 since the first case was diagnosed. That’s more than two months. He and that team, responsible for 58 million souls, have probably had no days off.

And they’re dealing with a moving morphing target.

Would I like the job?

When I watched the president last night, I saw something else: I saw a man who is exhausted. He’s worried. He stumbled over the numbers. I would have. He stumbled over that big word, death. I would have. Palbable sighs punctuated parts of his speech.

I also saw another side of the man: when he mentioned masks, he involuntarily smiled. Really smiled. With his eyes. Remembering the last time he addressed the nation and donned the now mandatory mask. You have to admire that.

So, no, I’d not like his job.

Today, we should cut him some slack. At 8.30 pm, last night, he should have had his feet up catching up with his wife, or having Facetime with his grand children.

I’m tired

I’m tired of being in lockdown.

Today is day 49. Theoretically We’re in level 4. That means nothing if one has no work or that the work one did prior to lockdown was in and/or associated with hospitality and tourism. Or domestic construction. Or cleaning someone’s home or tending a garden.

I’m tired being one of the missing middle unable to apply for government support.

Who knows when we’ll get to level 2, let alone level zero when we can associate with as many people as we please, and travel freely. Locally and internationally.

I’m tired of the new normal.

Not the 9 o’clock news

I’ve stopped listening to the news. Except mornings and evenings with the odd article from reliable sources during the day. I do need to stay informed and up to date.

I have to stop this “Corona crud” from making me sick. I do worry how it will all end up: for the people and our democracy.

I have to get on with things and do what I can. Reinvention of Fiona: version 500.

I’m tired, but I have to take these lemons, sour as they may be, and turn them into lemonade, marmalade, lemon curd, pickle and pie.

I just have to.

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

Photo: Selma

Post Script

In yet another aspect of my life, I offer

online English tutoring services

every day conversation and formal presentations
writing – emails and reports, academic and white papers
formal grammar, spelling and punctuation
more information here

And then there’s more:

  • 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 ko-fi?
    • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts because of this.
  • If you’re interested in a soft entry into the world of crypto currency and monetising WordPress blog, use the fantastic Steempress plugin to post directly to the Hive blockchain. Click on the image below to sign up
  • I’m still blogging on Steem with the occasional post on Medium.

Balancing Act or Slippery Slope?

I’ve had a hiatus from blogging.  Some of it because I’ve moved to a new host – a story for another time.  Most of it, though, because I’ve been through a bit of a low patch.  I can’t say that I’m out of the funk. I’m not.  Things still look and feel bleak.  I am, however, getting angry.  I am confused.

When I last wrote about the Covid-19 pandemic, I shared facts and little opinion.  I said I’d save my thoughts for another time. That time has come.  Be warned:  it’s a long read.

Before I do, a factual update:

The stats

Covid-19 figures as at 30 April 2020: The world and South Africa

The centre of the South African epidemic is now Cape Town.  In the 38 days since the first case was reported, an average of 148 new cases has been reported per day.  However, in the last three days, the number of confirmed new cases has averaged more than 300.

The South African curve is still rising.  Potentially exponentially.  Unlike originally hoped.  The peak is still expected in August or September.  So the numbers will go up, as will the need for hospital beds.

In our minicipal district, Langeberg, in the 14 days since I last wrote about Covid-19, we’ve gone from 1 active case to 4.

Effective today, 1 May 2020, South Africa moves out of a total lockdown and into stage 4.  A summary of what we may and may not do, is here.

What the President said

Last Thursday, and in anticipation of the end of the extended lockdown, President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation.  For the majority of people in my circle, there were three things that were top of mind: excercise, booze and smokes.  Not necessarily in that order.

The president was unequivocal.

The people 

  • will be able to buy smokes.  Again.
  • won’t be able to buy beer.
  • will be able to exercise
    but umm…well…my people, will get back to you on that.

Let’s talk about alcohol

The logic behind the ban on the sale of alcohol can be deduced and, to a degree, understood.  Yes, overindulgence does impair one’s judgement and one thing can lead to another.  Yes, South Africa does have a problem with alcohol abuse and binge drinking.  It’s common knowledge that alcohol contributes to domestic and gender based violence as well as motor vehicle accidents.  South Africa has more than her fair share of these.

Following the lockdown, there was a more than 60% reduction in trauma cases – stabbings, gunshot wounds and motor vehicle accidents.  Reports attribute this to the ban on the sale of alcohol. Nobody mentions that traffic levels over the Easter weekend were also much reduced because people had to stay at home.  The corollary, and in the same report: there was no “major shift” in the number of reported incidents of domestic violence.

The devil and the details

On Wednesday, on the eve of the eve of the lifting of the ultimate lockdown,  the relevant ministers briefed the nation.  We all waited with baited breath.  Smokers, enjoying the last of the eked out stash of ciggies, waiting to learn what “exercising” would mean.

School, universities and work

Certain people are back to work; certain mines, factories and enterprises are operating again;  restaurants may deliver food between certain hours.  Schools may open on 1 June.  The colleges and universities will not return to campus-based classes this year.  Except for final year clinical medical students.  They’re needed on the “front line”.

The rest of us, especially the “elderly” must stay at home.

An exercise gap

Individuals may walk, jog or cycle between 6 and 9 am.  We’re going into winter and South Africa has one time zone.  At 6am, it’s pitch dark on this (west) side of the country.  In the towns and cities, this is exactly the time when those who may, are going to work.

Why just this two-hour window, is a question that is vexing everyone.

  • It’s easier to police. Especially in the townships and informal settlements.
  • Because we won’t be tempted to have a catch up on the corner like we would between 4 and 6 pm.

It was our local police captain’s partner who posited these reasons on the community Facebook page.  Some villagers were placated.  Others incensed.  Having ventured out during the alotted time this morning, here was much acatching-up-on-the-corner….  The social media is awash with misty morning photographs of joggers on the Seapoint Promenade in Cape Town practising social distancing.

I am concerned about –

  • solitary women cycling, walking or running in the dark
  • homes, desserted by exercise fanatics people exercising their right to exercise, that are vulnerable to the criminal element that thrives on routine

Oh, and for pet owners:  their dogs can walk them.  They can’t walk their dogs.

De ja vu

It gets better.  I said that the rest of us, especially the elderly, must stay at home. We may only leave home for essentials, excercise and for medical appointments.  If stopped by the police (or army), we may be asked to prove why we’ve ventured out.

Workers are on a tight leash:  they may only leave home at 5am and must be back at home not later than 8pm.  Or else.  You must have a permit.  Or else. Oh, and a permit to move between provinces. Or else. If you must. Or else.

I hear bells ringing.  South Africa has a national curfew.  Again.

The dompas is back. Again.

That’s not all.

The about turn

On Wednesday, as the minister was rambling on, I wasn’t paying attention because I was faffing in the kitchen.  The Husband was watching the ticker at the bottom of the TV screen and suddenly said, “No cigarettes!”


I checked Twitter.  Sure enough.

I sat down to watch. What the Minister of Co-operative Governance, went on to say was, at best, laughable. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is a medical doctor, former Minister of Health and an rabid anti-smoking campaigner:  she advised that more than 2,000 submissions opposed the sale of cigarettes, tobacco and vaping products.  The health rationale is a given.  Partly.  I’ll come back to this. Then she said –

the way tobacco is shared does not allow for social distancing…When people zol, they put saliva on the paper, and then they share that zol


zol is a hand-rolled cigarette which often includes marijhana.  It’s not having a joint that’s the problem;  we may grow our own ganja.  We just can’t sell it (which has nothing to do with Covid-19 or the lockdown…).  In the time of Covid-19, according to the South African Command Council, it’s sharing a cigarette that spreads the disease.

I’ll come back to this.

Who is old and at risk?

Up to this point I have, by and large, been enormously proud of the way the South African government has managed the Covid-19 pandemic.  I have endorsed the lockdown, in principle.  I said so. I spoke about the significant proportion of the population at risk because of HIV and TB.  What I didn’t delve into was overall life expectancy and the incidence of deaths from non-communicable diseases – just over 26% of all deaths.

The table below suggests that if one is over 60, one is old.  Women live, on average, three years longer than their male counterparts.


I am approaching 60;  The Husband is over 70.  It’s quite a thing to be told one is old because the demographics say so.  Especially if one is healthy.  In this village, we are surrounded by sassy over 60’s who could put many 40 and 50 year-olds to shame.  We won’t talk about the 70- and 80-year olds who have the stamina to boogy the night away and bang a ball around a tennis court two to three times a week.

Old people must stay at home

Does this include our Minister of Health who, himself, along with many in cabinet, are well over 60?  Oh, and speaking of Mkhize, he’s asthmatic….

Although these data are from 2016, they do paint a useful picture of the population’s characteristics.  Other than being old, which one can’t help, it’s the chronic conditions that make people particularly vulnerable to Covid-19.  At a briefing on Tuesday,  the Minister of Health said that most of the deaths in South Africa were among people with comorbidities.  He specifically mentioned hypertension and diabetes but added a third:  obesity.  This adds another risk factor when one considers the proportion of South Africans who are overweight:


This is a significant proportion of South Africans;  obesity is a burgeoning problem.  What these figures do not show, is how many of those who are overweight are also diabetic.  It’s common knowledge, though, that the two often go hand in hand.

Back to tobacco

The logic behind the ban on the sale of tobacco and vaping products is perplexing.  To say the least.  I am not a smoker; never have been.  However, I grew up with smokers and I’m surrounded by people who do.  I, and they, are all aware of the health risks associated with the habit.  Like many addicts, they don’t care. Even if it does put them at higher risk of disease.  Including Covid-19.  At least one smoker in my friendship circle has said so.

The experts do say that there is an almost immediate benefit to the lungs when someone stops smoking.  However, I also know, from having lived with people who have quit, that in the six to twelve months after, they seem particularly vulnerable to colds and flu.

With all that in mind, let’s have another look at the actual proportion of the nearly 58 million South Africans who smoke.


Those figures mean that there are fewer people in the country who smoke than there are people who are overweight.  Yet, as some wag on social media suggested, there’s been no ban on sugary drinks, chocolates, sweets, confectionary….

The ban on the sale of cigarette and tobacco products defies logic.

It’s a one-size-fits-all approach that seems to pander to the members of the local temperance society.  Or does it?


South Africa’s history is full of prohibitions.  That’s what Apartheid was about.  Prohibiting certain groups of people from doing, accessing, and generally being human beings.  It criminalised normal human behaviour.  Including the home-based manufacture of alcohol.  Virtually every South African community has stories of making one form of moonshine or another, from mampoer to umqombothi.  Not all good.  Especially when it came to the heavy hand of the law.

Prohibiting the sale of alcohol and cigarettes has, on one hand, robbed the government of desperately needed cash.  On the other, it’s contributed to an existing black market – with all the nasty things that go with it.  Violence and extortion.  As with all black market commodities, it’s a case of who one knows and price.  Said a friend who lives in a suburb of Cape Town:

I can give you the names …. and who they allow the selling of alcohol through or even which shop and which items to ask for in order to get your stock. Everyone and everything has a price.

It’s the old story of supply and demand.  Those who don’t have access to those channels resorted to mobbing and looting.  The existing gang leaders probably don’t need lessons from Al Capone and Lucky Luciano.

Oh, and since then, it would seem that she who made those pronouncements, has an association with that ilk.

Cigarettes: a symbol of oppression?

As more and more people, far more learned or erudite than I, question the rationality of this decision, questions are also being asked about the deeper significance of aspects of the restrictions associated with the lockdown.

When the lockdown was just being mooted and the fear and paranoia of this invisible enemy began to seep into our conversations, there were laughing suggestions that the gates of the village should be closed.  The fear of the unknown, and unseen is how it begins. We get caught up in the headlines and soundbites and don’t delve into the mire beneath.  We should.  It’s as scary as it is enlightening.

Yes, the numbers are scary.  Yes, this disease is ugly, horrible and has no cure. No, I don’t want to get it.  No, I don’t want anyone I love to get it.  Yes, they might. That frightens me.

It’s these emotions that are fed by the numbers that are spewed out and not interrogated.  We need to remember that the mortality rate is between 1 and 5% depending on the population.  That means that many, many more people survive the virus than succumb.

Tools for Control

It’s this perspective that neither governments nor the news media foreground.  Instead, they frighten us so that we want to set ourselves apart from people who might be contaminated.  That is how stigma begins.

Fear is one of the tools that governments use to control their subjects.

Another is the big data that they collect: the information we readily (and not so readily) give away in our internet searches, social media activities and with out mobile phones.  The ubiquitous mobile phone has become a critical mechanism for the tracking and tracing of potential Covid-19 cases.  You don’t have watch CSI or Criminal Minds to catch my drift.

Yes, they need to find potential super-spreaders. They need to find, treat and heal people who are ill.

After Covid-19

When all this is over, what will they do with the data they’ve collected?  Our data.

Edward Snowden is concerned.  He says we should be, too.

Will we be able to legally buy and enjoy a glass of wine and a fag?  Where and with whom we please?

Will we be able to do more than break virtual bread and have virtual birthday parties?

These are vexing questions, not just for South Africans, but for other countries, too, where civil liberties have been severely curtailed.  In the interests of public health.

Bastardising another cliché, there may be short term gains, but one does have to wonder about the longer term implications once this disease, as the Spanish flu did, peters out.

Is it a fine balancing act, or a slippery slope?

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

Photo: Selma


Post Script

In yet another aspect of my life, I offer

online English tutoring services

every day conversation and formal presentations
writing – emails and reports, academic and white papers
formal grammar, spelling and punctuation
more information here

And then there’s more:

  • 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 ko-fi?
    • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts because of this.
  • If you’re interested in a soft entry into the world of crypto currency and monetising WordPress blog, use the fantastic Steempress plugin to post directly to the Hive blockchain.  Click on the image below to sign up
  • I’m still blogging on Steem and more recently share my burbling on Uptrennd and with the occasional post on Medium.


Ducks, Drakes and Croc Socks

Today is the fourth Saturday of our enforced lockdown.  We should have been “free” yesterday.  Instead, last Thursday, they added another fourteen days to our enforced stay at home.  If one reads between the lines, as I have said, there’s no guarantee that 1 May 2020 will see emancipation.

I admit that yesterday was a difficult one.  The ick on village social media (again) highlighted the mean, dark side of humanity.  It insidiously wears one down.  Crises don’t always bring out the best in people.  Then I remembered my Irish blog pal’s challenge to find or create some humour to make each other smile.

That’s kinda hard when one’s feeling down.  Then I remind myself that others have it much harder than I.

Making friends in solitary confinement

A friend is literally in solitary confinement.

Unhappily, about the only humans she’s seen have been Messrs Plod.  That’s a story for another time, perhaps.  She has, though, created am army of pals.  Not imaginary ones.  Real ones that hang around the house and garden with her.

Asked for her favourites, she was hardpressed to choose between Shamus and Tut:

Shamus, the swiming pool sea monster.  Apparently, he’s very sweet.  Once you get to know him.

To Tut, I cannot do justice, I have to use her own words:

He used be a Pharaoh, like real important like. Now he’s a zombie mummy. He’s a very happy little guy with a wicked sense of humour.

Check out more of Pixie’s pals, pretty kitties and fabulous food on Instagram.  You might just spot the brass animals she snapped when she went on her garden safari.


Me, I’m just trying to keep my ducks in row.

I’ve not entirely succeeded.  Mr Drake and Ms Duck, are too busy playing boomps-a-daisy.  Duckling? Well, does what ducklings, do….

Practise what I preach?  Hell, yes no!

I have tried to practise my own freely offered advice, but not entirely succeeded.  I’m trying to cook with out wine cooking with less wine.  Hoping that the stash will outlast the enforced stay at home.

I did not cut my hair in anger.  I had to do a major repair job.

Three days into lockdown. Lopsided, bad hairday angry haircut (L). Running repairs a couple of days later (R).

Good thing, too, because suddenly I had a video conference.  I had to be respectable (at least from the waist up).  Beltrack pants that don’t stay up because they’re so comfortable that …

Cold toes + laziness = Crocs and socks. Never before seen outside The Sandbag House.

Now, that’s a confession. As is the fact that in the last three weeks, I have taken and shared more selfies than the entire time I’ve been on social media. Including this one of me dolled up for the video conference.

Me, above the Crocs and socks.

I suspect my friend and hairdresser will be politely disapproving of the hatchet job when she is actually freed to fix my head.

Oh, and guess what?  The video conference ended up being a webinar where the screen was never shared.  There I sat, lipstick and all.  For whom?  The Husband and the cats.


Anyhow, that selfie has become my profile picture for an online platform where I will be teaching English.

Speaking of our feline family:  Princess Pearli was off being the strumpet she is.  Stay at home doesn’t apply to her. Of course.

Gandalf?  Well, he is dealing with this whole lock down thing as only he can:

Until next time, keep your ducks in a row (or try) and be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post Script

  • Corona Virus feature image: CDC on Unsplash
  • I’m participating in blogpal @tracyork’s April challenge of sharing a post every day during April – on the Hive blockchain. I succeeded last year – on Steemit from which the new blockchain “hived off”…
  • It seems a good way to constructively use the time during a compulsory lock down, right? For more about this initiative, please check out Traci’s post.

  • If you’d also like to both join the challenge and post from the WordPress platform to the Hive blockchain, sign up here.
  • I’m still blogging on Steem and more recently share my burbling on Uptrennd


Countering Covid-19: South Africa 21 days in

The world seems to have stopped and united over a single concern: Covid-19. In the six years I’ve been blogging this is the first time I’ve ever written serveral posts on a single topic in such quick succession. I’ve gone from mentioning Covid-19 as a tangential aside, to actually writing an update. Only one burble was a little tongue in cheek. Writing this is part of my own processing what’s going on and also because South Africa is not often mentioned in the global statistics. So often, too, Africa gets a bad rep. On April 4th, I got this WhatsApp message:

So this is how the British press are reporting SA handling of the virus?? Is it correct??

My honest answer was “yes” and I sent, in return, this link to share my thoughts on the lockdown.

My son from another mother’s response:

Will you write an update?

So, now

Just 24 days ago, South Africa had fewer than 500 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and no deaths. Now, there are more than 2,500 and 34 deaths. That’s an average of just under 105 new cases confirmed every day.

Bad news or good news?

As I write, I’m wondering whether I should start with the bad news or the good news. As I’m not really sure, I’ll begin with an update on the figures. Just four days ago, there were 1,8 million cases in the world. The number of confirmed cases, globally, is more than 2 million. It looks, though, to my layman’s eye, that the curve is beginning to be just a little less steep.

Total confirmed Covid-19 cases: 9 January to 14 April 2020 (Source)
The number of deaths does not bear thinking about. They are far too many for the burdened health systems of the three most affected countries. What we all do think about, though, is what if it happens to us? What if one of those “deceased” is someone we know? In my virtual, world wide friendship circle, I know people who have lost loved ones.

What of our near and dear who fall into the risk groups? Yes, there are recoveries and although those figures are important, what is worrying the health authorities is that this is more than a pretty lousy bug. It’s virulent, has crossed species (more than once if you count how it ended up in humans). Humanity has no real protection from it.

Meanwhile, in South Africa

We should have been ending our 21-day lockdown tomorrow (Friday). We are not. This is a summary of the last two and a half weeks:

  1. At the end of week one, a national screening and testing programme was announced and rolled out. Mass screening is centred on the so-called hotspots identified through geotracking of cases.
  2. Where tests are positive, they are followed up with aggressive contact tracing which includes the use of mobile phone geo tracking. Where individuals are unable or unwilling to self-isolate and quarantine, arrangements will be made to help. There are cases where individuals have been arrested for refusing to do so.
  3. Towards the end of week two, on the eve of Good Friday, the President told the nation that we’d be staying at home until 30 April.
  4. The figures for testing, confirmed cases, deaths and recoveries look like this:

    South Africa’s Covid-19 statistics as at 16 April 2020 (Source)
    I’ve been working on this post since yesterday, and my notes show what’s happened to the figures over night.
  5. There are three focal points for the disease in South Africa and these are, expectedly, in the three major economic hubs. The numbers, in ascending order, in the densely populated metropoles of Johannesburg, Cape Town and eThekwini (Durban). It was in this province, KwaZulu-Natal, that South Africa’s patient zero was recorded.

    Map courtesy of Johns Hopkins University and the data courtesy of the National Department of Health, South Africa. Annotations added.
  6. Closer to home, in the broader Western Cape and specifically the Cape Winelands district into which our municipality, Langerberg falls, the picture looks like this. There is a single case in our broader municipality which consists of five towns and villages, Robertson, Ashton, Bonnievale, Montagu and McGregor.

    Courtesy of the Provincial Government, with my annotations.
  7. In a virtual public meeting on Sunday, the Minister’s Advisor, Prof Salim Abdool Karim told us among other things, that South Africa’s curve has been atypical. It’s been a steady rise with a blip, ironically, the day the lockdown began.

    The exponential rise in cases has been arrested.
  8. In addition, Karim summarised the three waves of the South African epidemic, contrasting what was expected (top two graphs below), with what has actually happened (bottom two graphs below):
  9. He concluded that the flattening of the South African curve is not cause for celebration or complacency. It just provides breathing space: time for preparation for an anticipated and inevitable second wave following the lifting of restrictions.
  10. Just two or so hours ago, there was a government briefing on the ongoing lockdown and restrictions. My takeaways:
    1. continued prohibition on the sale of tobacco and alcohol
    2. no relaxation on the sale of cooked food
    3. children may be moved (with papers) between the custodial parents’ homes
    4. mines, with restrictions may return to 50% production
    5. certain warehouses and associated trades (plumbers, electricians) may operate
    6. the lockdown will be eased incrementally in an “orderly” manner.
    7. restrictions, still to be defined, will continue into May and beyond.

Meanwhile, “at home”

So, while many of us have been good children, and stayed at home, many have not. In the village our police captain was inundated with questions ranging from dog-walking to overnight hikes into the mountains. On day ten, the police issued eleven fines to people at home and who abused members of the police force. Yesterday, The Husband saw more fines being issued to people who thought that by wandering around with a bag, “shopping”, was an adequate “cover”. Countrywide more than 2,000 have been arrested, including a wedding party.

In the poorer parts of our village and in the rest of the country, especially in informal villages, social distancing is a mere dream. People live cheek by jowl and are hungry. This is fomenting unrest and violence. Even though it’s widely reported that there has been a significant drop off in trauma cases at hospitals, there’s been a significant rise in gender based violence.

Further from home, and in the rest of the country, there are incidents of army brutality, looting and similar patterns of I’ll just do what I like, when I like. Then there are the folk who genuinely don’t understand what all the fuss is about: an invisible threat.

Good News and Bad

Today, I am enormously proud of what South Africa has achieved in managing the pandemic locally. That the tide has been stemmed allowing for preparation for what might still come is a win. It’s time to prepare beds, purchase equipment and for South Africans to adapt to a “new normal”. A delay also means that the clever people working behind the scenes may also find better treatments, drug combinations and in time, a vaccine.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that it’s clear that the lockdown will certainly not be lifted on 1 May. Life, business and especially hospitality and tourism will not go back to normal. The truism “the virus doesn’t move, people move the virus” also means that travel restrictions will stay in place. International travel will take years to go back to what it once was. I am imagining that “covid-free” areas may take steps to stay that way. Whatever that might mean. On a personal level: it may mean that I won’t be rushing into Cape Town in a hurry.

At this point, I’m not sharing my thoughts on the implications of lockdown measures and how they’re implemented and managed. I will. In time. Along with how I think it’s going to affect our daily lives.

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

Photo: Selma

Post Script

  • Corona Virus feature image: CDC on Unsplash
  • I’m participating in blogpal @tracyork’s April challenge of sharing a post every day during April – on the Hive blockchain. I succeeded last year – on Steemit from which the new blockchain “hived off”…
  • It seems a good way to constructively use the time during a compulsory lock down, right? For more about this initiative, please check out Traci’s post.

  • If you’d also like to both join the challenge and post from the WordPress platform to the Hive blockchain, sign up here.
  • I’m still blogging on Steem and more recently share my burbling on Uptrennd

Variations on a theme: mac & cheese three ways

Not only is the weather turning, but because we’re locked in thanks to Covid-19, we’re looking for comfort food.  I shared these ideas way back in 2014.  I was reminded about them the other day, when there was a “debate” on the merits (or otherwise) of macaroni cheese.  There’s an even split between love and hate.

Funnily enough, this dish rarely appeared on our family table – my father did not like white sauces – a foundation of any good macaroni cheese. The Husband, when I first met him, viewed macaroni cheese with great suspicion: his mother’s version, he says, was bullet proof!  It was that solid.

Variations on a theme

Over the years, I have made various versions, partly because it’s an easy and warming meal to make.  Because one can have too much of a good thing, I have at least three variations on this universal favourite.  None of them actually with macaroni except, perhaps the last, now that I make fresh pasta.

Not negotiable:  Béchamel

All three of the variations have two things in common – pasta, obviously, and a Béchamel (white) sauce. The choice of pasta is personal and depends on the variation. The secret to a really flavourful Béchamel sauce is to infuse the milk with a bay leaf, carrot, clove of garlic and a couple of peppercorns before making the sauce.

Depending on the quantity I need, take 250 – 500ml of milk, and add the bits I’ve mentioned.  Blast it in the microwave for one to two minutes and then leave it to infuse for a while.

In case you need a reminder – white sauce is butter, melted, to which you add flour to make a roux; then add the warm milk and cook to the consistency you want.  Finally, add the cheese and other ingredients.

My Mac & Cheese Epiphany at the Brooklyn  Diner, NYC

A few years ago, on a rainy Sunday in January, when I was in New York City for a conference, colleagues and I were cold and hungry after a day of site-seeing. We needed supper and happened on the Brooklyn Diner, off Times Square.  As we sat waiting for supper, I remember watching the Nasdaq ticker and the constantly rising US debt through the window.


Although a lone South African among a group of Aussies, we had one thing in common: we hated the cold.  Two of us, at least, just wanted the kind of food we could make at home.  There it was: Mac & Cheese!

When it arrived, it wasn’t what we had expected: it didn’t look very appetising.  Tagliatelle smothered in the palest of creamy sauces, slopped on the plate.  It’s not the baked Mac & Cheese that appears on the current menu.  While they say you eat with your eyes, this was just the most delicious, macaroni cheese I had tasted in years – creamy, cheesy and tangy. Just what the doctor ordered. I make my own version and there are two secrets: fresh, egg-rich pasta and the sauce that is made with whole milk, butter and at least three cheeses – and hot English Mustard.

Through trial and error, I have worked out that the best cheeses are cottage cheese, and a really mature, tangy cheddar.  Finish of with some Parmesan or really mature, hard, sharp Boerenkaas to grate over the top. Full cream yoghurt in addition to milk, it adds a certain depth and piquancy to the flavour. In terms of quantities, that’s a matter of taste, and how tangy you like the sauce.  I also help it along with the addition of a quarter to a half teaspoon of hot English mustard powder.


Make sure that the sauce is not too thick – you want it to coat the tagliatelle. This is a saucy meal that is not dry. Cook the pasta, drain it, and serve, generously coated in the rich, tangy, creamy cheese sauce.

Enjoy it either with or without a salad.

Broccoli Mac & Cheese

This is the healthier variation of macaroni cheese.  I make it with a mild cheddar cheese sauce.  Before I made my own pasta, I used penne. The variation, here, is the broccoli and the blue cheese. Break the broccoli (or broccolini in this case) into florets/steam and then toss with the pasta and cheese sauce.

Pile into a large dish so that people can help themselves or into individual bowls. Either way, top with blue cheese.

Fiona’s “famous” baked mac & cheese*2014-02-09 09.53.17-1

This is my “original” recipe “created” before I happened on the Brooklyn Diner or invented Broccoli & Blue.  Of course, it includes white sauce and either farfalatte (bow ties), penne or macaroni, depending on what’s in the cupboard. As with the other two, it takes a good quantity of cheese sauce.  What makes this different is that I usually include sautéed onion and sweet bell peppers (red and green), chopped bacon (optional), a little garlic and some fresh oreganum. If I have onions in the garden, I skip the onion at this stage and use the green leaves and add them later.

So, to assemble this, cook the pasta according to the manufacturer’s instructions, drain and return to the pot; add the sautéed vegetables (and the fresh onion leaves if using) and then stir in the cheese sauce. Place all of this into a large oven proof dish. If you like, top with a layer of sliced tomatoes followed by a generous layer of cheese.  End with a sprinkling of Parmesan which will give the top a lovely crunch. Place under the grill until golden brown and serve!

*The “famous” bit is because we have had spur-of-the-moment invitations to supper and taken this along and it turned into the hit of the evening….

If you’d like these ideas and they work for you, buy me a coffee?

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

Photo: Selma

Post script

  • I’m participating in blogpal @tracyork’s April challenge of sharing a post every day during April – on the Hive blockchain.  I succeeded last year – on Steemit from which the new blockchain “hived off”… and…
  • It seems a good way to constructively use the time during a compulsory lock down, right?  For more about this initiative, please check out Traci’s post.

  • If you’d also like to both join the challenge and post from the WordPress platform to the Hive blockchain, sign up here.