Those Ice Cream Days

Summer’s heading our way.  Although it doesn’t feel like it today as a galeforce wind howls around the house.  Having a foretaste of summer earlier in the week, it feels as though winter’s returned.  One of the things I really enjoy about summer is a frappé. No, not the Greek one, but the one that, on a hot summer’s day, The Husband will rush home when he returns from the weekly shop in Robertson.  If it’s not too late.  That caveat is because I have a problem with cafeine.  Strictly Coffee describes it as an iced latté, but as fond as I am of a latté, and theirs, too, the name doesn’t do them justice:  they are more like milk shakes.  Thick creamy and made with Strictly Coffee’s own roasted beans.

First Ice Cream Memories

My first memories of ice cream go back to when I must have been about five.  We lived in a flat (apartment) on the Quigney in East London, South Africa.  In summers, and on a Sunday, my parents would pack us in the old (well she wasn’t then) Anglia, and head out to Buffalo Pass.  We’d spend the day in the sun, under trees wearing little more than a pair of shorts.  One of the things I remember (don’t ask me why), was that I had a little red Matchbox bus.


My bus did things buses of that vintage and design were never intended to do.  It traversed dust roads, man Fiona-made mountains and branched up and down trees.  By the time we headed home in the late afternoon, the bus was covered in dust.  As was the child.  It became a ritual to stop at The Friesland on the way home.


The Friesland Milkbar is now an East London institution and even then, was known to produce the best ice cream on the planet.  My mother always had rum and raisin.  I think I had cholcolate.

So added to the the dust and grime, were the sticky dribbles of ice cream.  Once we got home, the children were dunked, clothes and all, into a bath of bubbles from – I kid you not – Softly washing powder.  My mother reserved it for her “unmentionables”, woolies and children.

Back to the Friesland for a minute:  long time friends who return to East London – even more than fifty years later – make the not negotiable pilgrimage for ice cream.

Still in East London and then in Grahamstown

When we didn’t head out for the day, we’d be at home and the parents would have an afternoon zizz.  With hindsight, it was probably a necessary nap after a Saturday night.  I am never been one for an afternoon kip, so I never understood my father’s fury when the ice cream cart came calling.  I can still hear him:

If the ice cream man rings that bell once more, I’ll wrap that bell around his neck…

Or words to that effect.

I have no real memories of buying anything from one of those carts in East London, although I do remember doing it – quite often – after we moved to Grahamstown.  My favourite was a mint ice cream dipped in chocolate on a wooden stick.  I remember sucking the minty, creamy liquid through the hard chocolate crust which melted far too quickly.

The modern iteration of my favourite ice cream from fifty years ago Source

I remember doing this when the cart stopped at the end of the drive way and I was able to persuade my mother to part with 12c.


Ice Cream and Dad

Two of my fondest childhood memories of my father was not long after we moved to Grahamstown.  Both were on Saturday afternoons and are associated with ice cream.  The more frequent, and occasionally with Mum was at a little café in the High Street which sold soft serve ice cream.  One could have plain (vanilla), strawberry or chocolate or a mixture of the two.  It didn’t take me long to realise that plain was best, but better when wound around a Flake and dipped in chocolate.  That didn’t happen often.  Still doesn’t.  The second was also a little café, most definitely not in the High Street, but across the way from one of the two town cinemas.  The Olympia Café made its own ice cream.  It was served in cones and in balls on which one had one (for the children) or two (for the grown ups) scoops.  I still remember how creamy it was.  It had a unique flavour, and as I think about it, it was probably a slightly caremelised vanilla.  My mouth waters at the memory.

Grown up Ice Cream

I rarely now have ice cream, and when I do, it’s as a dessert and often shared.  Three are memorable.  The first because it was decadent, enormous and well, just completely and unexpectedly over the top.  The Husband and I were on holiday in our favourite seaside spot and decided to have dessert.  The house special was recommended.  I cannot tell you anything about the rest of the meal because it was forever eclipsed by what landed on our table.

It was served on a dinner plate.  It was a pavlova of fresh cream, ice cream, fresh strawberries and lots of red sweet stuff drizzled liberally over it.  It would have served ten let alone two.  It was delicious.  We did our best.  Did we finish it? I have no idea.

The second and equally memorable is the honeycome icecream we often shared at a little restaurant in McGregor started by folk who are now friends.  It is not overly sweet and a shared bowl is the perfect end to a meal.  I remember one cold winter’s evening, after a leisurely meal in front of their fire.  We were the last in that part of the establishment and they were tidying up.

Stay, relax.

Can I bring you?

There we sat, with our chairs pulled up to the fire, my feet on the The Husband’s knees, sharing a bowl of icecream, whiling the rest of the evening away.

It’s no wonder we moved to McGregor.

If I have to choose



Regular readers know that I occasionally participate in a contest that has us choosing our three best, worst or something things.  I wasn’t sure I was going to, this month, but reading other entries got me thinking.  Then, it’s also the penultimate month that it will run.  The team is taking a well-deserved break.

Thank you

Before getting to my choices, thank you to the team of @nickyhavey, @plantstoplanks, @chees4ead and @foxyspirit.  Hats-off to a group of people who have been consistent and dedicated to running (very smoothly) a contest that, if one delves into it, is complicated.  Necessary to keep things fair and above board.  They’ve done all of that with aplomb.

Q will be missed and I hope he returns, well rested, at some point.

Top 3

Now, I’m grown up, and if I occasionally must include ice cream in the grocery shop, it will either be vanilla or blueberry.  And if Kurt and Andre have their honeycomb ice cream on offer, it will always be gratefully accepted.

Feature image

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

Photo: Selma

Post Script

I am doing my best to post every day for November as part of @traciyork’s twice yearly #HiveBloPoMo challenge. This is my third attempt. All my posts are to the the Hive blockchain, but not all from WordPress.  Details about the challenge (on the blockchain) are here and on WordPress, here.

Looking for that gift for someone who has everything? Shop with Pearli in my evolving Redbubble shop

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 plugin to post directly to the Hive blockchain. Click on the image below to sign up –

Image: @traciyork

  • I also share my occasional 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.

In yet another aspect of my life –

English writing, research and online tutoring services
writing – emails and reports, academic and white papers
formal grammar, spelling and punctuation
more information here

Trippin’ out

In the last five or so months I’ve ventured no further than the top of the Road to Nowhere.  That was two weekends ago when we braved the cold and took a drive to see winter’s last farewell (we hope).

The snow on the Sonderend (without end) Mountains behind McGregor (August 2020)

Having spent a large proportion of my working life on aeroplanes and living out of suitcases, travelling doesn’t have the allure it used to.  I always said that I loved the work but I hated the travel. It is such a schlepp.

Travel to work

Granted, the majority of my travel has been in and around South Africa. When I began doing that, more years ago than I can remember, it was easy.  When I lived in the Eastern Cape, I worked with a team that would regularly meet in Johannesburg.  It meant a pre-dawn departure and a 200km trip, driving into the blinding sunrise, to get on a plane.  On one occasion, I remember driving into the East London airport only to hear –

Will passenger Cameron delaying flight XYZ to Johannesburg….

I kid you not.  I parked under the nearest high mast light, leapt out of the car, grabbed my bag and hared throught departures-cum-arrivals hall, and on to the plane.  In those days there was virtually no security;  it was all of 500m from the parking lot to the plane.

Phew!  Then:

Oh my word! #$#$%&*

Or words to that effect:  I could not for the life of me, remember whether I’d locked the car…well, there wasn’t much I could do, mid-air and without a parachute mobile phone – they didn’t exist, in South Africa in 1993.  Let’s just say, all’s well that ended well.

Heading East

Business has also meant that I have been privileged to do a little international travel – in Africa and beyond.  My first international business trip was to Japan.  The company in which I had invested (another story) was on the South African Pavillion for Foodex, an annual international trade show in the Convention Centre in Chiba – about an hour’s bus ride from Narita Airport and south east of Tokyo.  It was memorable for a whole lot of reasons, some of which, like most business trips, stay on the trip…

There were two particularly fabulous things about being part of the South African pavillion.  The first was wine:  who can afford wine on the Yen?    Then. Let alone now?  Every day, the guys and gals touting the world’s best South Africa’s wine, not only allowed us to taste, but gave us samples… Secondly, we were hosted by the local embassy, so we met some really amazing Japanese people.  One young man on the team lived in Chiba, and not far from the convention centre.  There is nothing better than recommendations from a real local.

Three meals

There are three meals of which I have very distinct memories:  the first was on arrival at the hotel after having travelled for a million hours two days.  My brain had stayed in Cape Town. The hotel restaurant reluctantly admitted my colleague and I – it was 10pm local time.  We looked at the menu, chose what we could understand – a hamburger – and ordered a glass of wine each.  Burger it might have been, but it was cooked-to-death rubber and tasted nothing like beef;  in my memory, I can still taste it. So bad it was, that I now always think twice before having a burger.  The wafer thin, solitary patty was accompanied by a very sad, equally solitary slice of icy cold tomato.  That. Is. All.

The bill for the two of us came to ZAR 750 – and that was in 2001.

The second was at a place, some walk away from our hotel.  On the way, because I was not watching where I was walking and talking too much, I rolled my ankle and fell in the gutter.  Ahem… That’s not the point though:  my colleague, when we returned to the hotel, realised she’d left her handbag behind.  Contents included her passport, air ticket and sundry other really important things.  So, about turn, on twisted ankle, we hot-footed it back to the restaurant….this time, without falling in the gutter or enjoying another really good meal.  The Husband (who wasn’t even a fiancé at the time) received a very tearful, sore phone call from Chiba some hours later….

The third meal was our last evening in Japan, and we prevailed on said young man.  He had done an internship at Costco somewhere in the US, and went out of his way to accommodate a bunch of brash South Africans.  His recommendation was akin to “the local” and at the train station.  He was brave, hosting a bunch of rowdy (and subsequently very inebriated) South Africans. Or perhaps not: his bravery was considerably bolstered by prodigious quantities of Saki – in which we all indulged.

Traditionally, Saki is served in overflowing glasses that swim in red, lacquer boxes.  No Saki goes to waste:  the box is specifically designed to allow the patron to pour the spillage into the glass and drink it.  We sat at the bar, watched the chefs prepare our meals and took menu advice from our host.  I had always enjoyed Japanese food.  That sushi was unforgettable.  The other details of the evening are deliberately sketchy…

This was the last evening in Japan.  I cannot remember the name of this fellow South African outside the place where we ate. The photograph survives. I have no idea why.

A bridge and an invitation

I would love to go back to Japan.  Not just to Tokyo which was fascinating – I remember sitting on a bus, in awe, in peak hour traffic on Tokyo bridge, perched high above the water.  We were heading to the official reception at the Ambassador Plenipotentiary’s residence.  Then, because there was no bus access, we had to walk along the narrow, windy streets to his residence.  I was fascinated.

As I was with our flying visit to the Ginza, on the red line from Chiba, via Tokyo station.

Then our chief liaison at the embassy – Yamamoto San – extended an invitation to his family Shinto Temple on our next visit.  I was honoured.

It was a fleeting, busy trip, but enough to leave indelible memories and a yen to return. To explore more than just Tokyo and Mount Fuji which I could spy, on a clear day, from the sky high window of my tiny hotel room.

(l) The Ginza shopping district – we had supper there, so I remember it like this; (r) Tokyo bridge – the view over the water to Tokyo at sunset: spectacular. Source

Heading West

For a number of years I was the in-country representative for the Education Faculty of an Australian university.  My colleagues and I travelled all over South Africa and to Lesotho and Botswana.  Because it was a collegial relationship and my role included consulting on matters South African, I had the privilege of co-writing and presenting a paper at a conference in the Big Apple.  It was post 9-11 so travelling had become considerably more painful laborious.  That pain was significantly relieved by a couple of things:  the conference was in one of the landmark hotels on Manhattan Island, the Rooseveld, on Maddison Avenue. It’s a stone’s throw from Central Park and Grand Central Station.  Because it was late January and still freezing cold, the latter became a regular coffee-cum-escape from the hotel. And the worst coffee in the world:  Starbucks which was the in-house coffee bar.

Famous school pal

Oh, and while I think about it,  NYC is home to a now famous South African and “girl” a couple of years ahead of me at school:  Amra-Faye Wright who has played Velma Kelly, on Broadway (and in Japan and South Africa) more years that anyone.

Amra, on a building in Times Square, and whom I remember in school musicals and particularly, Paint Your Wagon in 1980. Source

It was quite something seeing pictures of Amra and her long, lithe legs on buses, in the concourse of Grand Central Station, on the side of buildings and virtually everywhere I went in New York.

New York City – had I visited thirty years ago, I’d have stayed. Forever. Source 1 and 2.

Morning call

The Rooseveld is beautiful and harks back to a bygone and gracious age.  I do mean gracious – including the staff.  One morning, I’d arranged with a colleague to skip the first session and visit the Empire State Building.  In our defense, the plenary speaker was a South African whom we knew, and who approved of our plan:

You’ve heard it all before….

That morning, I came down in the elevator, and into the lobby (you see, I can speak American, too…in South Africa, that would be the lift and the foyer).  I’d been awake for hours (again, my brain was still in South Africa), watching TV and hearing how a vehicle transporting broiler chickens had jack-knifed on an overpass, wreaking havoc on the traffic.  I was fascinated by the politics:  it was in the run up to Obama’s nomination as presidential candidate.  The lobby was deserted.  No sign of D.  Ahem… best I check the time.

Ma’am, it’s 6.30 am…

D and I doing the mandatory green screen thing after visiting the viewing deck…

All my photos of that New York trip went the way of a computer crash. I lament them all:  of the Statue of Liberty;  Ground Zero which made an enormous impression on me;  the Water Taxi on the Hudson – all four of us bundled up against the cold and wet.  Especially the ones I took from the top of the Empire State Building:  I was am terrified of heights.  I was determined to have a bird’s eye view:  I stuck my arm and camera through the mesh.  Pointed and clicked looking the other way, praying that the camera and I survived to tell the tale.

Memorable meals

A memorable meal?  There were a few – in the hotel for the conference – every meal seemed to be some sort of chicken and asparagus.  The asparagus, so crisp that one was in danger of causing serious bodily harm to fellow diners as it speared its way off one’s plate, across the table.  I didn’t eat chicken for at least a month after getting home.

On our last evening, D’s husband had arrive to join her.  He insisted on hosting us at, what were were told, was a fancy, famous NYC steak house;  I know I had steak.  I know it was excellent, but more than that, well, let’s just say, it was a long time ago.  Also on that trip, I ate burritos for the first time – a little Mexican eatery geared for blue collar workers – near the Statten Island Ferry.  Later that same day we ate another meal, just off Times Square, forever immortalised in this post.

To the Med

My first international trip was as a solo traveller. To Spain and, specifically to Mallorca.  It cemented my forever love of things Mediterranean, and is also memorable because it was at a time in my life when things were changing.  In more ways than I’d ever have imagined.  Funny how many of the photos were of pathways and passages.

Valdemossa, Mallorca, 1999

Continuing the memorable meal theme, I did eat paella:  I wanted to buy some traditional ceramics and took a bus to Fellanitx. Not being a morning person, I arrived around 1pm:  siesta.  The plaza was deserted, but there were a few open doors.  Inside, there were always groups of smoking men, gathered around a counter, inhospitably (to me) chewing the fat.  I randomly chose a table under a tree, and when someone eventually emerged, I ordered the cheapest thing on the menu:  vegetable paella, with café con leche e aqa. That lunch set the bar by which I have measured paella ever since – whether or not it is seafood.

In Africa

South Africa and Africa are beautiful.  I’ve been fortunate to visit Swaziland, Botswana and Lesotho.  I’d love to visit all three again. One of the many countries I’d most like to visit is Zimbabwe – the land of which The Husband speaks so fondly, and where he grew up and spent much of his young adult life.  Then there’s Zanzibar, of which my parents spoke with yearning but never visited – even though they met, married and lived in Kampala;  they both said that East Africa was exquisite.  So, along with these, I’d give my eye teeth to go to Ethiopia.  And Sudan.  That part of the world holds an indescribable fascination:  probably because, of the mix of cultures, religions, fascinating cuisine and long, deep history – into prehistory…

In our backyard

Even closer to home – and more realistically, we have a couple of favourite spots.  In our province, a road trip up the West Coast to see the spring flowers would be in order.  The Husband took me on such a trip – for tea and scones – not long after we met:  I was in a bad space.  My mother had not long died and my father was dying.  It was a special and happy day, even though we saw no flowers because the weather was foul.  The tea room had disappeared, much to The Husband’s chagrin.  On he drove, exploring, and we ended up in Paternoster where we had a meal neither of us shall ever forget, and at a spot we still frequent.  Our last trip was a flying visit.

We walked on that beach the first time we visited Paternoster, watching a Cape Storm approach. Through which we subsequently drove home.

Our honeymoon spot

We love the Garden Route and spent our honeymoon in Sedgefield – nineteen years ago this month.  It’s been a while since we headed out that way.  We’d go tomorrow…

The mouth to the estuary at Sedgefield on the Garden Route

Too places, too many reasons

As usual, I’m hard pressed to draw a line in the sand (ha!).  I’ve already mentioned some trips I’d love to take.  There are more:  I’d love to go whence my forbears come, and to where there are people I’d love to see (again) and/or meet.  I’d love to visit the city of my birth:  Oxford.  It’s also my mother’s home town.  Of course, I’d love to go to Glasgow where my father and The Husband were both born.  Then there’s the Chelsea Flower Show at Kew Gardens in London, where my father trained.  Then there’s Liverpool where the son-from-another-mother’s mother lives.  Oh, and, well, there’s always more, isn’t there? India, Bali, Australia…Mexico…

My dream

My passion for food, flavours and cooking are no secret.  Nor is my enjoyment of Mediterranean cuisine. The Husband will tell you I’ve equally made no secret of my long-held dream of a circumnavigation of the Mediterranean:  from Gibraltar to Gibraltar.  In each country, I’d love to explore the cuisine – what makes each country’s food separate and unique and then, what connects it – other than a large body of water.  Perhaps one day…

QTop three?

I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that inspiration has come partly from Covid cabin fever, and partly from the Top 3 team’s topic for September.

In choosing three destinations, I am guided by Q’s qualificationfavourite.  

a thing that someone likes best or enjoys most


Using that as a guide, and considering the restrictions, if I were to trip out, today, my favourite local destinations would be Sedgefield and Paternoster, followed by Cape Town.

My dream of the Med remains, and added to that now, the hope of international travel.  If When crypto – specifically Hive – moons, I dream, one day, of breaking bread more than just virtually, with my very international circle of blogpals.

You have all helped, in so many ways, to brighten my days during this very dark time for the world.

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 my  occasional 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.

Granny’s Triffids

I must have been all of five years old when I learned about triffids.  Or so I thought.  They were in the new vegetable garden of the new house we’d moved into not long before Granny came to visit.

Me, in August 2020, outside the house my parents built in 1968, and behind which the triffids grew.

Dad, the horticulturist he was, and having grown up with an alotment, composted the garden from the embryonic compost heep that consisted largely of vegetable peelings and waste.  I remember that something that hadn’t been planted, suddenly started coming up where the “proper” seedlings should have been.  With hindsight, the Dad probably had more than an inkling of what they were likely to be.  Granny and Mum, not so much.  Granny, as I’ve mentioned before, was a prodigious reader and was also given to the occasional bit of singing.

Anyhow, the plants with the long vines and winding tendrils and the pretty yellow flowers became the triffids.  Inspected daily.

Every year we grow Triffids. Of one sort or another.

Granny’s triffids turned out to be gem squash and they are one of the first vegetables I ever remember harvesting.

Why is she on about Triffids?

Regular readers know that I occasionally participate in a monthly themed contest about favourite things. Over the last year, I’m gathering that the @yourtop3 team now expect a “Fiona treatment” of the topic.  Talk about no pressure! Ha!  I nearly skipped this month:  the theme is end-of-the-world movies.  When I saw that, my heart sank.  Skop, skiet en donner, blood, gore and gratuitous violence are just not my thing.

Not doing the apocolypse

The only apocalyptic film I could even remotely remember seeing was Francis Ford Cappola’s Apocalypse Now.  Although I was forced to study Conrad’s Heart of Darkness on which the film was loosely based, I worked as hard at forgetting both.  It’s taken thirty-odd years and I didn’t think I was going to revisit either.  On purpose.  Nope.  Not.  Still not!

Then I Googled lists of films that were about the end of the world and, my gosh, there were a huge number from which to choose.   I’d actually seen two.  On the lists that popped up for me.  So, avoiding the Apocalypse was Now unavoidable…. Regardless of tThe fantastic reviews, brilliant cast and direction mean that I might just watch it – if, at the end of the world there is nothing else to watch…

The book

On that list, there was another name that jumped out at me:  The Day of the Triffids.  Ha! I had forgotten that there had been a film.  I remember John Wyndham’s book which I had discovered in the school library and devoured.

The library in which I discovered The Day of the Triffids is still there – two windows to the left of the main entrance to Clarendon Girls’ High School in East London. This photo: 2010 when I returned for our 30th reunion.


My over-active adolescent imagination created creatures that were so terrifying that the thought of seeing them “for real”, even in a film, didn’t bear thinking about.

I was the child that when things got a little hairy on TV or home movies, would flee and peek around a corner until Shane was safe and sound….


Back to that list:  the other film that I had seen was the 1977 film Damnation Alley.  I now realise that my friend and I probably only went to see it because of Jan Michael Vincent.  I’ve never forotten the film.  Neither for the cast nor the story, but because of the terror of the flesh-eating cockroaches that swarmed through the sewer grills of deserted streets any time they sensed human flesh nearby.  The boarding house in which we stayed had a cockroach problem.

I still don’t like cockroaches.  Those images are as vivid in my memory as if I’d seen the film yesterday.  Not forty years ago in East London as a seventeen year old.

It’s a pattern

Just on twenty years after Damnation Alley, and serendiptously (but not, if you do simple arithmetic), twenty years ago, I spent a great deal of time commuting between Cape Town and Pretoria for work.  A bunch of us were working on the new post school system that was emerging in post democracy South Africa.  We stayed in a hotel, worked days and were at a loose end in the evenings.  Occasionally, we didn’t have work to do, or weren’t completely exhausted, and we’d go to a movie.  One of two movies I remember from that period, is The MatrixWhy I went to see it, and it didn’t pop up on that Google list, and more to the point, why I’d forgotten it, I don’t know.  I’m grateful to Gaz (@cheese4ead), one of the Top 3 team for the reminder.  I remember being enthralled, and the film stuck with me for a long time.  The sequels simply don’t live up to the original and are, for that reason, completely immemorable.

Going to the wall

This is a weird time and I’m not just talking about COVID-19:  the world is beginning to realise the almost apocalyptic damage that humans are doing to the earth.  Looking back to a 2008 film about the ravages of an electronic wasteland in the 29th century is somewhat prophetic.  Like so many good children’s films it’s allegorical if you allow it to be.  Also because it’s a children’s story, it leaves one with a warm feeling at the end even if there are tears.  I like that.  Again, thanks to Gaz for this happy reminder of the adorable WALL-E.

An aside

When WALL-E came out, I just didn’t get it.  You see, I was reading the reviews.  I heard read with my South African English and sort-of British accent.  I didn’t get “wall”.  I didn’t get “e”.  Until I heard it in American.  Then the penny droppedWally!!  Did I feel the wally?


I always say that I don’t participate in this contest to win but rather, because the topics get me going. They do, and when I get a prize for being runner up, which happened for last month’s entry…well, I’ll take it and brag.  Just a little.

As I suggested when I began, it was a close call as to whether I’d enter – until I came across Granny’s triffids.  Yesterday.  At that point, I was going to nominate just one movie – because you can (ethically, I think), only nominate films you have actually seen – and give the topic the full royal “Fiona treatment”.  Then, this morning, thanks to Gaz, I discovered that there are three four end-of-world films I had actually seen!  Two of which I actually want to remember.

So, to appease Q, my nominations, in no particular order, are:

  1. The Matrix
  2. Wall-E
  3. Damnation Alley (which for years, I thought of as Tin Pan Alley…oh dear…)

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 my  occasional 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.

Roads trips – a retrospective

Having grown up in a small town and in high school, having gone to boarding school in another town, road trips were commonplace.  There are, however, some trips that remain embedded in my memory.  The first that I really remember would have been in 1967.  It was the year after we arrived in South Africa and my father had a new job, necessitating a move from Port Elizabeth to East London.  It’s a trip of about 300km and at the time, my parents didn’t have a car.  A friend offered to drive us to East London.  I remember little about the trip (I’d have been about four and my sister nineteen months younger), except that the car was huge.  The four of us – plus the driver – had ample space.  One thing I do remember – other than the heat and burning the backs of my legs on the shiny vinyl seats – was the bench-like front seat from which I could just about see over the dashboard.  A music play list? I doubt it.  The driver would have been accompanied by anything a capella – if anyone sang.  I don’t have a clue!

Granny and the Mini

The next road trip that I remember, was not long after that, and as my Dad was going for a(nother) job interview – in Grahamstown.  It would have been late 1969 or early 1970 because my granny was visiting from the UK.   By then, my parents had acquired a motor car which was the complete antithesis of the vehicle in which we made that other road trip.  It was a Mini Minor, much like the one below.Source

What you do need to know, is that both my mother and my grandmother were tall women, so I still have difficulty thinking of their folding themselves up so that they could get into that car.

Granny outside her home in Cowley, Oxford. Ironically, this is where Austin manufactured minis and it’s likely that she had worked in that factory during the war. I wrote a bit about that here.

Back to that trip.  Granny sat in the back:  in the middle. She was bookended by her granddaughters.  I have vivid memories of putting my head in her lap and sleeping at least part of the way.  Although I don’t actually remember her singing, I have no doubt that she did.  This was her nightly lullaby.  I sometimes still sing it in my head and Joan Baez’s rendition reminds me of Granny and her beautiful voice.

As I mentioned, road trips were a regular feature of my childhood.  After moving to Grahamstown, there were frequent visits to Port Elizabeth and even one to Cape Town.  Then in my high school years there were regular trips from Grahamstown to East London and back – at least monthly, if not more often – to and from boarding school.  The subsequent series of motor cars didn’t have a radio in them, let alone a tape cassette.  Consequently, there was no such thing as a road trip play list.  I must have sung on some of these trips – especially as a little girl.  I loved singing, but my singing was not loved:

Daddy, what can I sing for you?

His inevitable reply:

Over the hills and faraway….

He meant not the tune, but … literally.

Consequently, road trips included games like “I spy with my little eye….” or counting cars, and more interesting, guessing the origins of motor vehicles from their number plates.  This was long before the advent of the current number plate series, and we could guess province, town and country.  We prided ourselves on knowing that TSN was Sandton (if memory serves).  TJ and TP were Johannesburg and Pretoria, respectively, both in the then Transvaal (now Gauteng).  There was a time I could recite the towns for number plates that started with C(ape) and from A to Z.  The Western Cape has retained this series for its towns and I can still tell you some of them, including that CA is Cape Town (a no-brainer since we lived there for years) and that CZ is Beaufort West.  B, C, D, E and F were all in the Eastern Cape and were, in order:  Port Elizabeth, Kimberley, King Williams Town, East London and Grahamstown.  I did have to check that I was right with Kimberley (Source).  Funny how these trivial things stick.  I wish some other information was so readily retrievable from the memory banks!  Actually, the second car I owned, was registered in Grahamstown, and it was with that CF number plate that my Blue Fiat Uno and I arrived in Cape Town in the mid-1990s.  Not a road trip I remember with any relish at all.

A stop in Parys

Moving swiftly back to happier times, well, sort of, is a road trip made not long after my 21st birthday and on which occasion this photo was taken.

Dad, Mum and I at my 21st birthday (garden) party

That road trip is memorable for a range of good and awful reasons.  It was a 1,000km trip from Grahamstown to Johannesburg.  On the trip up – in a clapped out Datsun – packed to the gills with students – the weather was appalling.  It poured with rain and there was a hole the floor of the car – my feet were perpetually wet.  Of course, the inevitable happened:  the car broke down.  The water pipe connecting the radiator with the engine … well … it burst.  Suffice it to say, we had to stop and have a Heath Robinson repair in Paris Parys, 100km from Johannesburg.  It was already dark and, as I said, miserable.  Even though it was early autumn and should have been balmy (we were all barmy at that point…).  It was pitch dark by the time we hit the road again.  All I remember of the rest of the trip, other than the belching and screeching of the water pipe, was the orange moon at which I stared out of the back passenger window, with frozen, wet feet, and to the sound track to the 1983 (this was 1984) film, Lawyers in Love.

Any of those Jackson Brown songs, particularly that one, take me back – less to the trip – and more to that moon.


Johannesburg-Queenstown, return

Fast forward just about ten years to when I was living in Johannesburg (which skyline still does it for me…):  for the entire year or so prior to leaving that city, and once a month, I’d make the just under 700km trip to Queenstown and back – for the weekend.  At the time, I had a company car and it was the first of “my” cars to have a radio and a cassette deck.  I was in heaven.  Prior to that, I’d had a little 1970-something yellow Renault 5.  The Yellow Peril had no frills, let alone a sound system.  I compensated with my pink walkman portable cassette player and ear phones.  Any how, I digress.  As usual.

Those trips between Johannesburg and Queenstown were accompanied by a pile of cassette tapes.  They were all loud, sing-alongs because I was travelling alone and would leave around 1pm, and drive straight through, stopping once and just to long enough fill the car, the stomach and to use the ablutions, arriving some six and a half hours later.  I have wracked my brains to remember what those tapes were, and the only one I can remember, is Bette Middler’s Some People’s Lives and especially this song:

Spoilt for choice

Having travelled quite a bit for may day job in the last 20 years ago, and living where we do, I’m not so fond of road trips.  I prefer to stay put. That said, there is the odd trip to Cape Town and the-not-odd-enough-trip to places we’ve not been.  We don’t have a hard and fast playlist, and with our not-so-new Chevvy just having a CD player, we both select what we’d like to hear and put the discs in a box.  The selection ranges from The Beetles to Santana, Mango Groove to Edith Piaf, The African Jazz Pioneers and Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand) and a whole lot in between.

There have been times, though, having selected the maximum number of CDs our carrier would allow, it lived in splendour on the diningroom table until our return from a trip.

Post Script

This post was was originally posted in August 2019 as a non-entry to that month’s Top 3 contest.  Because of what I explain here, and because I want to link to this post, here it is again.

Post Script

In yet another aspect of my life, I offer

English writing and online 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 also share the occasional post on Medium.

Taking the Lead

This month’s theme for the monthly top 3 contest on the Hive crypto-blogging blockchain was one that the team just must have known I couldn’t pass up.  I started thinking about my selection the instant the post appeared on 1 July.

I “compete” for fun

I’m getting a little ahead of myself:  I always say that I don’t “do” these compteitions to win, and I don’t, so imagine my surprise after last month’s contest, and I see this in the post announcing the winners.  With this list.

Thank you for asking:  yes, I did win a little prize – in crypto currency – which just popped into my wallet.  Thank you to the @yourtop3 team that rewards rambling tenacity!!

Note to self:  sometimes it pays off to work hard at just having a bit of fun!

Picking a winning lead

As I’ve already said, this is a hard task for me.  I ended Sunday, when I really began working on this, with a list of 14. Then that got derailed by posts from a couple of blogpals like this one and then this one and this one….

I had a series of criteria worked out:  the voice, the looks, the sheer talent, and then because I’m a patriot of note, my best South African lead singers.  Anyhow, I am in a busy patch and I’m not going to bore run you through a history of where, when, what and whom, but I will share some of my favourites.  Of course. Not.

The Voice

One of the most distinctive voices I’ve ever heard is Darius Rucker from Hootie & the Blowfish. That dinctive gravel just does it for me every time I hear it and I stop and listen.  And yes it takes me back to the 80’s….

Then there’s Heather Small from the M-People.  There is a depth and timbre to her voice that is recogniseable anywhere.  From having heard her being interviewed when she was in South Africa, she seems like a downright nice and good person, too.

I love this song and its has a universal message as apposite today as it was in 1994.

My next serious contender is Stevie Nicks.  She was part of the lineup of Fleetwood Mac in their heyday – a band that’s featured in other entries this month.  She, though, has a voice that is so versatile and distinctive.  There are a few songs from the Rumours album that just nobody can do.  Like this one.

One of my favourites in between albums, is this duet with Tom Petty. Here it is, just because I can and because it takes me back to about 1982….

The looks

My final voice just has to go to Jim Morrison from The Doors. He also fits into the categories of gorgeous and talented.  Like so many in the talented category, tortured and wasted.  Sad.

This is another song which, in this time of Covid really resonates.  But that’s another story.  Perhaps for another time.

Still in the gorgeous, talented and voice category must be Jon Bon Jovi.  This song has resonance (I’m saying that a lot…) for me because it came out after my mother had died and my father was dying.  It was an anthem then.  It should be an anthem for everyone.  For ever.

I defy anyone not to dance to this.  I still do.  Whenever I hear it.

Talent and viruosity

Anyone who knows me, and who  has followed my blog will know that I will never ignore Freddie Mercury.  I shan’t repeat what I’ve said before.  Although Jazz is often remembered for Fat Bottomed Girls and Bicycle Race, this Brian May-penned song, perfectly showcases Mercury’s beautiful voice and maginficent range.

I could go on – there are so many more, but I’m running out of your attention time, so let me come home.

South African songbirds

We have great music talent in South Africa, one of whom I celebrated and lamented here.  However,  today, I’m selecting three great women.

PJ Powers

PJ’s music career and my life have kind of run in parallel.  Known also as Thandeka and best known internationally for her rendition of The World in Union for the 1995 Rugby World Cup, she’s risen above well, let’s just say, she’s done more than pull herself up by her bootstraps.  My first memory of seeing her live was in 1986 in the Underground – which really was – at the Chelsea Hotel in Hilbrow, Johannesburg.  We danced until the wee hours.  We and she were the last people staggering standing.

More recently, I’ve seen her perform in Cape Town.  When I asked her to sign the CD we bought, I mentioned this and she said:  “I saw you – in the front row – you knew ever word!”  I did.  I do.  Just a few months ago in an intimate venue here in McGregor.  I did.  I will.  Sing.  Every. Word. Again.

This is one of her signature songs.  Jabulani means “happy”.  It is also the name a stadium in Soweto where she and Hotline – the band with which she sang – performed in the 1980s. At the time, it was illegal for people of race to share a stage.  And for white folk to be in a black township.  Some of my happiest memories – ever – are of my times, dancing in Soweto in the mid-1980s.

Also from around the same time, is Mango Groove.  Their posters adorned every underpass the bus traversed on my way to and from work in the centre of Johannesburg.  Claire Johnston who has also visited, but not performed in, McGregor, has the voice of an angel.  I love the early work which is vibey, afro-fusion and just fun.  It really is get-up-and-dance music.  You just have to.  It still does it for me so many years later.

This song is just has so many levels to it.  It came out as South Africa was heading towards her first democratic elections.  A time of such hope and happiness.  Here, she sings with my final South African songbird, Zolane Mahola.

Mahola not only has a beautiful voice, but she’s multi talented and hails from my home province of the Eastern Cape.  She’s the lead singer of the Afro fusion band, Freshlyground that is a miscellany of so many talented musicians whose music has also punctuated my life.  We first saw them perform at Kirstenbosh Gardens before they hit the big time.  This song hadn’t even been released when they played that concert, but Mahola sang it that day and it’s haunted me ever since.

My current favourite top 3 lead singers

As I write, I’m still  hard pressed to choose just three.  There are so many others that I’ve not included:  Diana Ross and her liquid silver voice.  The lead singers from REM and Simple Minds whose names escape me….

So, just for Q:

My current top 3, and it’ll probably change tomorrow:

Freddie Mercury, Stevie Nicks and…Jim Morrison


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 and online 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 also share the occasional post on Medium.

Tuck shop tucker

At boarding school, there was really very little reason to go to the tuck shop.  We used to get sandwiches at break (for my US blogpals – mid-morning recess).  They were always brown bread and usually the freshest of soft fresh.  My favourites were egg.  I still love egg sandwiches.  When I make them, I still grate my eggs they way they were grated for those sandwiches.  Peanut butter or peanut butter and jam (jelly), I could take or leave, and mostly left.  The midday meal was a quick gobble before the final two lessons ahead of the end of the school day just after 2pm.

Clarendon Girls’ High School where I spent five years, and from which I matriculated 40 years ago this year.  I took this photograph ten years ago when I went back for my first school reunion.

Reason besides, I did frequent the tuck shop.  There were certain stand out products that were popular among my peers.  They, and two in particular, became part of my Friday, end-of-the-week ritual.

Pocket money

Each term, our parents put money into our “pockets” which was doled out on request.  These were the days before computers, let alone PCs. Parent communication was either snail mail or a weekly telephone call to or from the ticky box (pay phone).  Back to pocket money – a girl needs cash, right?  The matron had a huge, leather-bound ledger and a cash box.  Each one of us (and there were about 70 of us), had a page on which she kept a running tally of our personal allocation and what we drew.  We had to go to her office, and queue after breakfast to draw money or to get a “sick” note if we needed to “escape” phys ed.  I queued. Frequently.


The pupils’ mums ran the tuckshop and the fare, some of which would be frowned upon today, included salad rolls (egg or cheese) on fresh, white hot dog rolls;  vetkoek (deep-fried dough) with curried mince.  And buttery, flaky cheese pies.

The latter two often featured in my Friday ritual necessitated by the ubiquotous fried fish, soggy chips and coleslaw:  after school, I’d head to the tuckshop and order either a cheese pie or a curried vetkoek and a yoghurt.  When I have the opportunity to eat a traditional kerrie vetkoek, those vetkoek remain the standard.

Anyway, not so long ago, there was the inevitable discussion about tuck shop favourites on the “alumni” Facebook page.  I discovered that there is a recipe book from that era which includes a recipe for the curried mince.  The discussion turned to cheese pies and I mentioned that, occasionally, I make them.  There’s no recipe.  They must have been bought in from the local bakery – along with the sausage rolls.

I should not have said anything because, of course, I don’t have a recipe.  Anyhow, I promised that the next time I made them, I’d write down what I do. That meant paying proper attention to weights and measures. And things.

The “girl” who asked for this recipe is in this photograph of the residents of Connaught House, taken in 1976. She and I were in the same dormitory at least once that year, if I remember correctly.  She is at the end, on the right, of the second row from the back.  I am on the grass to the left of the matron’s left knee.

So, Judy, this is for you:  taste memories of forty five years ago.

Old School Clarendon Cheese Pies

The first time I made  these cheese pies was because I had some puff pastry left – from something else I had made.  Until I tasted them, I didn’t think about “our” cheese pies.  One bite and I was transported back to the years between 1976 and 1980, and high school. I admit that I make them with ready-made pastry.  I have made puff pastry:  it’s a mission.  And expensive.  A good quality store-bought pastry is a never-fail, at a far lesser price.  There’s a time when discretion is the better part of valour.  So, this really is a very easy “two ingredient” recipe:

A roll of pastry makes between 4 and 6 pies – depending on how thin one rolls the pastry, how good one is at spacing the rounds and how large you make the pies.  I use a small, plastic side plate as a template (about 16cm) and each pie contains about 100g of grated cheddar.  I seal the edges with milk which I also use to brush the pie and glaze it.  I’m a bit Scottish about using an egg wash: if I’m only making two pies, most of the egg will go to waste.  Bake in a hot oven (210°C) for 15 to 20 minutes until puffed up and golden brown.

Make sure that the pastry is sealed and that no cheese escapes – if you don’t, you’ll have pastry shells.

Pimped cheese pies and canapés

Although there is only one way to eat these cheese pies: hot, out of the oven with an entire bottle lashings of tomato sauce (ketchup), one can shrink and pimp them:

Shrink them for canapés and cut the pastry using an 8 to 10 cm cookie cutter and to pimp the filling, if you use cheddar, mix it with fresh herbs (like oreganum or thyme) and/or thin slices of raw or caremelised onion.  Inspired by a friend in the village and a pastry I ate at her Country Kitchen even before we moved here, occasionally and decadently, I substitute the cheese with a mixture of finely shredded raw spinach, caremelised onion and blue cheese.

If you’d like a printable version of the recipe, you can download it here.  When you do, buy me a ko-fi?

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 and online 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 also share the occasional post on Medium.

The Mercurial Freddie


I wrote this almost exactly a year ago, and it went the way of all my posts for that period.  That said, this week saw the announcement that the Royal Mail would be launching a series of stamps to mark the 50th anniversary of Queen.  It seemed fitting that this is the post I should “reconstitute” and tidy up as part of that ongoing process of revising and “logging” them here.

I am an unashamed fan.  Their music is intertwined in the soundtrack of my life, going back to 1976 when I began to be enamoured with pop.  Their music is fascinating on a range of levels, from the music iteslf, to the lyrics.  Bohemian Rhapsody is open to so much interpretation and in the days when lyrics were included with the record (yes, we had the record), one could learn the the correct ones off by heart.  I remember looking up “Bismillah”, “Scaramouche” and “Beelzebub”.  I hear that song, and others, and the words just come out of my mouth.  Involuntarily.

One of very few regrets

Freddie Mercury always seemed a larger than life character and that he was.  In October 1984, the year I turned 21, Queen came to South Africa to play at Sun City and I didn’t go.  I regret little in my life, but not having made more of an effort to take the trip, is one of them.  That said, perhaps it wasn’t a bad thing – Freddie had issues with his voice and a couple of concerts were cancelled; with my luck, that would have been “my” night.  It was the most controversial part of that world tour because the Equity ban precluded British artists from performing in South Africa.  Because of Apartheid.  However, Sun City was located in the then “independent” state of Bophutatswana and which was “Apartheid-free”.

When I heard about Bohemian Rhapsody, the Freddie Mercury biopic, I was nervous about seeing it.  Who could be Freddie?  Nobody, I thought.  Then the reviews emerged – mixed.  And then Rami Malek, contrary to critics’ expectations, won the Oscar.  My interest was piqued and after hearing from contemporaries that they loved it, I wanted to see it.  Living where we do, and not getting to the big city the cinema very often, I was delighted when our local thespian laid his hands on a newly released copy of the Blu Ray and showed it at his theatre.

With reservations and with great anticipation, I went to see the film.  It is not the best film ever made – by a long shot.  Malek is wooden and tries too hard to be Freddie.  The actors playing Roger Taylor (and I loved his solo album, The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking) and John Deacon were similarly wooden.  “Brian May” was probably the most comfortable in his character.  Despite all this –

I loved every minute.

I said so in a Facebook post which unleashed denigrating comments from two university contempories which, I think, reflects the extent to which Freddie Mercury was misunderstood.  This is the comment that most got me, and on which I have been reflecting ever since:

[the film]…made out that Freddy was a (sic) AIDS sufferer supporter…which is complete bullshit. If you read the auto biography Freddy was promiscuous almost beyond belief…he literally had a queue of young men outside his hotel room door who came in one-by-one to provide Freddy with an ‘all night service’. And then when he got Aids, (how surprising), he hid it as long as he possibly could and did nothing to remove its stigma or do anything for other sufferers. Freddy was a million miles away from being the saint they paint him as in the movie.

My response then:

It was honest without being as brutal as it could have been. Call me old and soft, but I appreciated that.

I went to see the film a second time and enjoyed it as much.  It also made me reflect even more on the extent to which Freddie has been villified in some quarters.  Largely unfairly, I believe:

Some context:

Growing up in South Africa meant that I grew up in a very conservative environment, in a country governed by Calvanistic Christian government:  Apartheid meant that races could not mix.  People of different races could not live next door to each other;  mixed marriages (sex across the “colour bar”) were (was) prohibited.  By law.  There was a peice of legislation:  The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act.  Similarly, sexual relations between people of the same sex was illegal.  Doors were broken down, people hauled out of beds and imprisoned.  Members of the armed forces suspected of being gay, were subjected to “corrective treatment”.  That is the society in which I grew up, as did the person who made that comment.  Homosexuality was also illegal in the UK when Freddie was a young adult; only in 1967 was it decriminalised for males over the age of 21.


This means that we, like Freddie and his contemporaries, grew up in a homophobic world before AIDS and HIV:  it reared its head as a public health issue (and with terror tactics) in what would have been our last year or two of university.  It was highly stigmatised:  it was a gay disease;  it was also a disease of promiscuity.  It was, and for some still is, the equivalent of Biblical leprosy.  Notwithstanding the fact that there is now enough reliable information in the public domain which gives a lie to all of that.


During 1989, and when it was gay men who were most concerned about becoming infected, I had the mixed blessing of having a gay friend who discovered that his new partner, with whom he had hoped to have a permanent relationship, was HIV positive.  The partner had not disclosed and they’d been having unprotected sex.  My friend  and I went to see the film Longtime Companion, a classic about a community of friends confronting the ravages of AIDS. My friend had broken up with his earstwhile partner but was waiting for the outcome of the first of several tests necessary to find out his status.  It was still in the window period and then there would be the wait for a further six months.  The results are not important.  What is important is that my friend is one of the least promiscuous people I have ever known.  He knew, and would talk about Fire Island and the gay lifestyle;  he had lived in, and returned to Florida.  I have forgotten none of his agony, anger nor relief.

That agony can only be second to the agony of someone grappling with coming out and which includes having to acknowledge to themselves and to a still hostile society, their sexual preference and its implications.  I have had the privilege of walking alongside two dear friends as they have taken this step.  It’s neither a choice, and nor does coming out make life easier.  It just makes life different and choices different.  Nor, in 2020, does it mean that the world is accepting and not homophobic.

Farrokh Bubara

Freddie Mercury, I believe, was very much a product, and a victim of, his time.  Although he died at 45, we should remember that this year, he’d have turned 74.  He was nearly 20 years my senior.  Effectively a different generation.  That bears thinking about, as does his early and young life.

You’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny

Although he was born in Zanzibar, his father was employed by the British Colonial Service (as, incidentally, was mine) which sent him there from his native India (the family were Parsis from the Gujarati region, and were Zoarastrians).  The young Freddie was sent back to India to an English “public school-like” boarding establishment.  What parent, today, relishes sending their children to boarding school?  Less so now that the conduct of certain school masters and initiation practices  are increasingly being publicly acknowledged as “established” phenomena.  A few years later, in 1964 and when Freddie was just 18, the Zanzibar revolution, led by Muslims, forced the family to flee.  Nowhere else to go, they ended up in London where he clearly didn’t fit in. To add insult to injury, it was assumed he was from Pakistan, a country run by Muslims, the very people that hounded the family from Zanzibar – with nothing. Source

This would have been tough for any adolescent, especially for someone sensitive, with enormous talent and unconventional looks; I can only imagine how he felt about himself.  I have an inkling:  I had my own journey having to have my teeth “fixed”.  My mother constantly told me that I couldn’t have the most fashionable hair-do of the moment because of “your ears and your teeth.  Then there were all the other “you’re-ugly-and-your-mother-dresses-you-funny” experiences of my childhood and adolescence in boarding school,

About his being gay, one of Freddie’s biographers says:

The world has changed so much. He was a arecording artist in the ’70s and ’80s, two decades when the level of homophobia is difficult for anyone born after 1980 to fully comprehend. In particular, Britain and the USA were scary places for gay people, and the onset of AIDS gave license to the religious fulminators and right-wing zealots.

Living up to his rock star status

Hiding his HIV status and developing a larger than life persona that sheltered the deeper, sensitive, private human being must have been Freddie’s survival strategy.  The debauchery, which was touched upon in the film was a combination of what was expected of a rock star, the machinations of another lost soul who had found his meal ticket (or so he thought), as well as Freddie’s own proclivities and insecurities.

Freddie was no saint, that much is clear.  Perhaps his feet of clay did not feature in the film as much as his detractors might have liked.

With hindsight, two songs strike me as particularly poignant.  Was this, for most of his life, Freddie’s quest?

This one, hated by an old boyfriend of mine, is as relevant today as it was in 1984.

Lastly, this happens to be one of my absolute favourite Queen songs, not often played, which is my only reason for including it.

Post Script:

June is Pride month…
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 and online 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 also share the occasional post on Medium.

Those hair(y) days…into the 90s…

Mid 2019, blogpal @traciyork shared a selection of family photos from her childhood.  It set us chatting about how photos like those reflect the essence of the period through the fashions:  furniture, clothing and, of course hair.

It made me contemplate the very few photographs I have of myself as a young adult in the 80’s.  The era of big hair, bigger shoulder pads and great the best music.

They were the days of Kodachrome and Instamatic.  Photographs, unless they were professional, were often hit and miss.  Not everyone had a camera.  In my youth it was more miss than hit.

It occurred to me that in a time when it seems the world has stopped, to go through my shoe boxes and to keep that promise.  It was also, to some extent spurred on by longtime university friends sharing photos of a spring vacation in 1982.


It’s a mixed blessing that decades perfectly mark certain eras in my life.  So it is with the 80’s that saw me finish school, head to university and then to work in Johannesburg.  Those were seminal years.  They were also among the happiest in my life and what I did, and the people I met continue to shape who I am and what I do.  Some of those early friendships endure.  Happily.

As I finished school, in 1980, the BeeGees were in their heyday, Abba had had theirs and nobody had yet heard of Madonna.  I headed to my matric dance (prom) in braces:  I refused to smile for the camera.  We all wore frocks made from “trilobal”.  I refused to let my mother make my dress.  One of my happiest memories is of shopping for this dress – with my father.

An unsmiling, rather shy and awkward 17 year old in September 1980.

As I recall, we did dance to the BeeGees.  Every school dance I can remember always ended with the queen of disco.



The following year I headed to university.  The beginning of a new decade and on the cusp of adulthood.  All the photographs I could find of that year were of the “miss” variety.  The following year, 1982, is one of the happiest years I can remember.  I just seemed to begin to settle into my own skin.  A few weeks ago, there was some fun chat about those days on Facebook and particularly about a seaside vacation.

This 1982 hit always transports me back to that beach and little cottage by the sea.

Courtesy of Facebook – a photograph I knew nothing of until nearly 40 years later.

In the days that I comfortably wore “skinny” jeans.  I think we called them “stove pipes”.

Courtesy of Facebook:  photograph I knew nothing of, until a couple of months ago.

I shall not share a photo of the two of us taken just last year when Douglas and his family popped in to the market.  I didn’t know that we had been so beautiful.

Now two professional photographs:  the first for my campaign for election to the students’ representative council.

August 1983

The second, to mark my graduation and my 21st birthday.

May (ish) 1984

Two years later I headed to Johannesburg.  My first job was writing distance learning materials.  We wrote them in long hand and then took turns to type them up and into electronic format.  There were only two PCs available.

1986:  Taking my turn.  Floppy disks, bad hair and even worse earrings. They look like mint imperials. They were all the rage.

When I left that job, my wardrobe had to become more “corporate” and the hair followed suit (ha!).  I was also deeply involved in volunteer work, which required casual attire, and really, really formal, and everything in between.

1987:  The same outing as I wrote about here.

A lot more sedate as I “grew up”.


Dressed up for a charity day at the races.

Not negotiable: the seal of approval from my son from another mother.

This is what ended the decade:

1990:  No comment.

This 1989 song always takes me back to that apartment and that year:


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’s fortunate that today I had something to get off my chest!  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.

Where were you when…?

I went cold.  Not because a Cape Cobra had tried to join us for brunch.  The moment The Husband and I rose from the table – in unison – he literally turned tail and headed back when he’d come.

That was yesterday.

This morning, going through the ritual Sunday chores, listening to the local radio station, I heard the question, “Do you remember where you were on this day, thirty years ago?”

Then it dawned on me that it is the 2nd of February.  I did know that.  Facebook had reminded me and I had wished three folk for their birthdays.

I do remember

Thirty years ago, February the 2nd was a Friday.  It was the opening of parliament and it was to be F W de Klerk’s maiden address.  It was the beginning of a new decade, and a new era.  We had no idea what the future would hold.  We had an inkling, and great deal of hope.  At the time I was working In a job where I was seeing out my last month.  The ninth month of hell.  Not because the people were awful.  Nor was the company.  It was the mindlessly, endlessly boring job.  Not that I had nothing to do.  On the contrary, I was busy and even took work home.  It just didn’t stimulate me.  It didn’t rock my socks.

My office was like a cell.  It was on the top level of a parking garage in the bowels of Johannesburg.  The only natural light came from a long fanlight set so close to the ceiling that I’d have needed a ladder to look down at the street below.

My boss knew that in my spare time I volunteered with a street children organisation in Hillbrow.    She was also a former police woman.  Her husband was still in “the force” as it was known then.  However, and ironically, he was not mainstream police.  Nor was he part of that other, more secret branch of the force.  He was a founding member of the child protection unit and they were all too familiar with, and sympathetic to, the street children “problem”.  The irony continues because some years later when I worked for a national children’s charity, we collaborated with the police and that unit to start National Child Protection week which is still an annual event in South Africa.

Returning to that day:  I had a good rapport with my boss and we had an unspoken understanding of each others’ politics.  In those days, in certain many contexts, with certain people, certain subjects were taboo.  It was just before lunch and Bosslady, very unusually, burst into my office.

Have you heard the news?

No, why?

Let’s remember that thirty years ago, there were no mobile phones, no social media, let alone email.  The closest we got to instant communication was a telegram delivered to your door by a man on a bicycle, telex or fax.  Our firsthand news came via telephone – landline.  If one had an answering machine, a message might be waiting.  For the rest, news came from the news media:  newspaper, radio and television.

De Klerk has unbanned the ANC.  Nelson Mandela’s being released.

How do you know?

My husband…

I sat at my desk, aghast.  Delighted.  Gobsmacked.  Thrilled.


There was no-one near and dear with whom to share the news.  I did not have that kind of rapport with either my boss or my colleagues and subordinates.  I didn’t know who to phone.  Anyway, it would have been a personal call on the company dime.  I had no radio in the office, let alone in my car (the first – a very second hand Renault 5).  I do remember wishing I’d started my new job – at an independent school that was run and staffed by anti-apartheid activists.


I have no recollection of what I did after work that day, but I do remember what I did ten days later, on February 12th, the day that Nelson Mandela walked out of Victor Verster Prison:  a free man.

It was a Sunday and once a month we’d take “our children” from the halfway house in Hillbrow, into the country where our “other” children were more settled.  Always a bunch of volunteers, the children and staff.  The volunteers would make contributions by way of meat, salads and treats for the children.  We’d play games in the sun, chat and just generally have a fun, lazy day in the sun over a lunch braai (barbecue).

A typical Sunday outing to our Magaliesberg project. These photos which include me with four of the boys, were taken in 1988 by a Canadian visitor.


That particular Sunday, I deposited my passengers and headed home.  At the time, the Yellow Peril (aka aforementioned Renault 5) lived in a rented space that belonged to a friend’s apartment.  She, until she became too ill to do so, was part of our Magaliesberg outings.  She is on the extreme right, in pink, in the bottom photograph.  It was not unusual for me to pop up and say hi, as I did that afternoon.  Maxine had grown up in Johannesburg and especially in and around the cosmopolitan communities that were most devastated by apartheid.  Her stories:  how I wish I’d listened more carefully and written them down.  I digress.

Maxine had the television on, her oxygen tank her only companion.  We all knew that that was D-day.

It hasn’t happened yet.  Let’s have a cup of tea.

So we did.  As we sat discussing the significance and events of the previous ten days, we watched Nelson Mandela walk out of prison.  A free man.  We graduated from tea to sherry and thence to wine.  I have no idea what time I headed home down the block.  I do remember our sitting waiting, and then in rapt attention as Nelson Mandela gave that first address to the people of South Africa.

Nelson Mandela, flanked by Walter Sisulu, his former wife, Winnie, and Cyril Ramaphosa, reads first address to the people of South Africa since his trial. Picture: Leon Muller

Thirty years

Fast forward thirty years.  I cannot believe that it is thirty years.  It feels like yesterday and a lifetime ago.  I go cold.  So much has changed and there is still so much to do.  It also dawns on me how the world turns.  For one of my birthday pals, that February 2nd thirty years ago, had so much more significance for her.  Funny that we’ve known each other more than 30 years – we were at Rhodes together;  neighbours in the same residence in our first years.  Neither of us celebrated our birthdays at university – they fell outside term time.  Of course I knew about her journey with V, and until today, didn’t think how special a gift she had received on her birthday in 1990.

That brings, me, in a roundabout way, back to the cobra:  both she and I love our gardens and their life;  we both have more than a passing interest in sustainable living.  It’s what’s reconnected us so many years later.  It’s not the first cobra we’ve had at The Sandbag House, and it certainly won’t be the last.  This one, did give us cause for pause.  Not for us, so much as for our Christmas guinea fowl family.

There were twelve in the clutch. They were probably 2 days old here.

They are very difficult to count, let alone photograph.  We try do do the former pretty regularly;  I do the latter very badly.  When I can.  There is a reason for the expression bird brain:  Mrs Guinea isn’t the best mum. Dad was, in the early days, superior.  In the baby album collage below – random photos of their progress – you’ll see one hunkered down near our little stone wall.  That’s Mr Guinea.  All twelve are nestled underneath him.  Mum was most definitely taking a break.

In the last six weeks, they have diminished in number to less than half.  When they were seven, The Husband and I spent an early windy evening in the dry leiwater sloot (irrigation channel) that runs past our house:  the babies had fallen in and couldn’t get out.  Talk about quick and little!  Eventually we’d scooped all seven out to scamper through the fence.  All this while Dad had a go at The Husband for messing with the kids.  And Mum?  Well she was chattering up and down the fence, like a headless chicken not sure whether to thank us or not.

Then there were six and then, on Friday, there were five.  That evening, The Husband said he wasn’t sure about Little Five.  He’d been commenting on the little straggler for a while: a dreamer, lagging behind and then chivied up to catch up with the family.  On Friday, The Husband thought Little Five was was poorly.

Sure enough, yesterday, there were only four when we did a head count.  I snapped the bottom right pic when I got home yesterday afternoon.  Sure enough:  four.  Perhaps the cobra did have brunch after all.  Today, as it was 40°C, we hadn’t seen them, but a moment ago, we were still grandparents to four guinea fowl chicks.  Ignored by Gandalf the Grey and Princess Pearli, The Husband’s wondering when they’ll move in.

A last word:  something else had been on my Sunday agenda. Until I went cold.

Until next time
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post Script

  • Originally posted in Feburary.  I am reposting it because of this.  Please bear with me as I “reconstitute” my lost posts.

Bored Games

There is not one board game in our house.  When I met The Husband, there was an ancient game of Trivial Pursuit which arrived as part of the final merger.  Somewhere, though, over the last nearly 20 years, it’s gone.  I think it got thrown out because it was so old…


I loathe bored board games.  As for games evenings, well, I’d rather sit around around a table, break bread and enjoy conversation.  I remember a time when when a group of us would gather at mutual friends’ homes to watch the rugby (local and international matches).  When the practise began, the match was followed by a meal – usually a braai or if it was a late-ish match, a winter warmer like a curry or oxtail would be consumed during the match. Of course, the post-match conversation included detailed and scientific analysis which could run the gamut of emotions from jubilation to anger and desolation.  It all depended on whose side had won or lost or the referee’s folly.  Generally, though, the conversation would move on to other things.

Then, something changed.  I’m not sure what, and instead of conversation it was either Trivial Pursuit or 30 Seconds.  Both games are fun with the latter being my favourite of the two, but having spent well nigh on two hours glued to a television, why?

I have a love-hate relationship with Trivial Pursuit and quizzes, generally:  although I can be, and often am, a mine of useless information, I don’t do well under pressure.  In a quizz, when I know the answer, I’m so happy about it that I develop a temporary Tourette’s-like condition and just shout it out.  Often I know I know an answer, but it doesn’t appear in my brain, let alone get to my mouth.  Until the following day.  Fat lot of good!

30 Seconds, on the other hand is a bit like charades with cards and words.  Need I say more?

Oh, and did you know that this game was invented by a South African? Source

Games from my childhood

Cold winter Sunday afternoons were times for board games.  In front of the fire after the parents had had their afternoon snooze.  The entire house, including the dog would take to their beds.  Except me.  Mother gave up on forcing me to have an afernoon zizz.  I just couldn’t and still don’t.  I’d prefer to curl up under an eiderdown, or in the sun, with a book.

Just another reason for a love-hate relationship with board games:  playing them was not an option.  That said, I will acknowledge that there were times when I allowed myself to have fun.

So, what were the games?

Well, I recall for Christmas one year, getting a compendium of games which included everything from snakes and ladders and ludo to tiddlywinks and bingo.  Although I played snakes and ladders, to this day, I don’t see the point.  Perhaps I’m a little dim.   Ludo, well, let’s just say that it didn’t seem quite so pointless.


With tiddlywinks, skill and dexterity are a prerequisite, as they are with Pick-up Sticks which I did enjoy.  Someone gave me a set, I can’t remember whom, and I loved them.  Technically, neither are board games, right?


There were three other games that featured at different times in my childhood and all of which were much enjoyed and only ever played with my Dad.  It’s a long time since I played any of them:

Collage created on BeFunky with stockpics


It’s the board games I’m supposed to be talking about. There were two others that we played as a family.  One, I mentioned in passing here, was a present from Granny – Peter Rabbit’s Race Game.


Mine looked exactly like this and when we played, I was always Jemima Puddleduck.

Vintage South African Monopoly Source

The other, and more frequently-played game was Monopoly.  We had the South African version and when I ventured, for the first time to one or other of South Africa’s major cities, I loved discovering the premium properties in real life:  Eloff Street where I’d shop and catch buses when I worked in the centre of Johannesburg.  Roeland Street down which I’d drive if I had occasion to go to the centre of Cape Town to, among other places, the parliamentary precinct.

If memory serves, “my” piece was always the iron.  My mother’s which I only remembered when I looked at the picture, was the battleship.

I have no idea what happened to those sets which, the research for this post suggests, would now sell for a pretty penny.  I wondered why until I realised that those sets would have been more than 40 years old…

An unscientific theory

I am not a gamer.  The closest I get to any gaming is one or other iteration of solitaire.  I will play it on the PC;  give me a pack of cards and I’ll play one or other version of patience.  I think of it as “brewing” time for the project(s) on which I’m working.

I have often been struck by the time that the male of the species will spend either on playing a game, or creating (a) game(s) and striving for perfection.  Frankly, I have too much to do – in the kitchen, around the house and just getting on with life.  It was one of my pet peeves that my ex-husband could would live in a pig sty and eat swill and spend all his spare time on a game.  I just didn’t get it.

So, my theory is that women actually have a whole lot less free time than men.  Whether we like it or not, managing the home and caring for children is still primarily women’s work – over and above what we might do to earn a living.  Time on their hands, and what do men who don’t have a hobby, play sport and who no longer hunt for food, or go to war, do?

Create and play games.

Perhaps this scientific notion, in addition patriarchy, could also explain why most of the arts are still dominated by men?

My favourite three board games, if I were to choose?

  1. 30 Seconds must top the list.  It can be serious educational and fun.  It can be played in teams which makes it elastic, and more fun.  It can also be played by people of all ages and “skill” level.
  2. Draughts – I’d love to play this again.  I recall watching folk play this on the streets of Johannesburg:  the games were as fast as the lightning of a Highveld thunderstorm.  I loved playing this game with my Dad.
  3. Finally, and it’s just for sentimental reasons:  Peter Rabbit’s Race Game

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, let me explain what prompted this post, first published nearly a year ago:

An evil, really nice bunch of people in our PowerHouseCreatives group on Steemit run a themed contest once a month.  It’s always about one’s Top 3 of something or other.  I keep on saying I don’t do competitions because I don’t do competitive.  I really don’t.  But then, I keep on participating.Ahem…

So far, all the topics have piqued my interest in one way or another, including last month’s to which I had absolutely no connection, but which got me thinking.  You can read that entry here.

This month’s theme:

Board Games
Open up the cabinet and blow off the dust, we are breaking out the board games for the topic this month! Get ready to duke it out for your favorite game piece (we all had that lucky one, right?) and clear off the table for a night of fun. Perhaps it was a family tradition to come together at the end of the day, maybe a monthly date with friends, or getting the big guns out whilst the stereo system was playing dodgy Christmas songs! However it happened, we want to know, so share your top 3 favorite board games that you couldn’t resist bringing to the table!

Find the full post here
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.