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.

Bullies: Virtual hiding in plain sight

The other day, I mentioned my love-hate relationship with the social media.  Just yesterday, I not so tongue-in-cheek suggested that the Internet is one of my lock down essentials. The social media have come to permeate every part of our lives and, in the main, especially now, it’s good.  And not good.

I did add, and I’ve often said, that my private accounts are “open” only to a select few.  Yes, I do have a number of “public” platforms – you can connect to them from my blog – but I rarely share really personal stuff there.  I suspect that I’m not alone in this.  What it does mean is that what you see – on those platforms – is not always what you get in real life.  That’s not to say that what I post is not genuine or authentic.  It is.

A heap on my stoep. Too pretty to sweep up.

There are some things that I simply choose not to share.  It’s a bit like dirty laundry:  not for public consumption.  I guess it’s a little like the difference between the level of intimacy between one’s business associates, co-workers and inner circle of family and friends.


In the 3D world, people are generally courteous.  One just is.  One greets and goes through the niceties.  In the context of Covid-19 and it’s rampage, the niceties become more than that.  I really do want to know how people are.   With social distancing that is difficult to do, in person.

However, this begs another question:  why is it that we so often lose our manners because we’re doing it via a big or little screen, over the inter web?

Social Media Groups

I have had the dubious pleasure of administering community Facebook groups.  One private and the other public.  I did it for nearly three years and the stress levels were, at times, off the chart.  I accepted the role when the person who started the groups was ill.  She subsequently be came even more ill, and given the value (so they told me) to the community, I took on the lead role.  Finding help was difficult and ultimately, I did relinquish it.  With enormous relief. It meant no more hours on end dealing with inane queries and private messages from members who simply didn’t tow the line.

I still bear the scars.

I am still and administrator on a WhatsApp group in the village.  It’s for alerts, not chats and has some simple guidelines.  As does the private Facebook group.

Because we all need pretty. And flowers.

Guidelines, rules and people

I’ve  long said that I’m a salmon.  I’ll happily go against the flow.  I’ve also been known to espouse the “rules-are-there-to-be-broken” maxim.  However, there does come a time when rules and guidelines are there for a purpose;  I get that.  I respect that and I do toe the line.  Similarly, in a groups of more than one hundred, to as many as a thousand members, one simply cannot presume to know everyone, or that everyone knows you.

As with all groups, there are the inevitable chatty ones, the outliers and the bullies. The outliers are generally the silent majority.  Chatty Pat (male or female) usually means well and is harmless.  The bullies, though, just seem to have no sense that there are other people in the group and that barbed comments make their way through cyberspace and into warm blooded, feeling human beings on the next screen.  I’ve been astounded at the tone (and language) in public private messages that are not only rude, but hurtful.

As I have written, this type of behaviour is pervasive.  An early lesson in my blogging career.

Because I can’t wait for spring.

When presumptions are truths

This brings me to the next point:  if one doesn’t agree with the individual or join his shindig, his comments suggest that one doesn’t have the interests of the group/village/cause at heart.  It’s a presumption;  there’s no engagement let alone concession that there might be a valid reason for the perceived apathy.

Do not presume to know my reasons.  Unless mind readers exist, and until science manages to facilitate brain trans-somethings between people and machines, you won’t know unless you ask me.  That is, again, the courteous thing to do.

Why can’t we all just get on? We aren’t birds of a feather. That’s ok.

Don’t bully play the person, play by the rules

It’s all too easy in a WhatsApp group to twist the rules and make up different ones.  It’s even easier to have a “go” at people when all you see is a number.  It’s a perfect recipe for antipathy and tension.  More to the point, it denudes the group.  Bombarded by pings, people flee the nuisance and the conflict with the added “benefit” of undermining the group’s purpose.  It’s the administrators, who happen to be very human, that take all the flak – in the group and in private messages.  With rarely, if ever, any acknowledgement, let alone appreciation.

Then people wonder why I’m happy to retreat to The Sandbag House and look at the mountains from my window.

This too will pass, I am certain.  This is a time we shan’t forget.  It’s a time in which care and compassion count.  For everyone.

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.

From drab, dull and mostly grey to astonishing colour

It often amazes me how out of things seemingly unsightly, dull and ugly, beauty emerges. I have mentioned a spot we often visit and which is home not just to a fabulous spot for eating lunch, but is also the working gallery and home to a glassblower and his artist wife.

Outside his barn studio, hangs this copper kettle

An artist’s place of work is one of contrasts:  apparently untidy, seemingly uninspiring, but very organised.

The “rowing” chair on which the artist sits and works with the molten glass, painstakingly forming it into the shape it ought to be
The long, metal rods resting in the water
One of three furnaces
The glass that falls off as they work.  This tray is on the floor next to the chair, three photos up.

On one of our recent visits, we had the privilege of watching the master and his team at work.  These are just three examples:

Outside the barn door, in the elements
In a deep window
On a glass shelf


A word about the photos of the interior of barn

Visitors to the barn are not permitted far into the barn where David Reade and his team work, so all of these photographs were taken from a distance, and using the quite limited zoom of my camera.  I was struck by the dominance of black, white and grey in that space, in contrast with the colours that eventually emerge.  Consequently, I thought that those photographs would be and interesting entry into Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge.


I will share more of David Reade and his team at work in another post.

Post Script

Having entered this challenge, I was delighted that Fiona’s Favourites and this post was selected as one of Cee’s featured bloggers.


© Fiona’s Favourites 2016

Odds and ends – I

Sometimes life overtakes us.

So it has been for me in the last ten days.  The day job and the project on which I’ve been working, seems to be taking an eternity to come to an end, have taken me to Johannesburg and back.  I’ve been at my desk for ten or so hours a day.

I’m not getting to many of my favourite things, including Fiona’s Favourites and blogging.  Quite a few things are falling through the cracks.  Bear with me.

In the meantime, here is a selection of some  photographs that don’t fit into any particular theme, but which I rather like.


A black and white bee-eater on the back of a wrought iron chair in our garden.

SAM_5740.JPGBlossoms from a tree collecting in the agave underneath it.  I loved the clean, sharp lines of the leaves and the textures in this photograph.


One of my favourite decorations for the Christmas tree;  it’s handmade and I bought it, along with a few similar ones from a craft market about ten years ago.

If you were waiting for me to share the passata recipe, I’m sorry.  The passata’s done, and so am I.  Tomorrow’s another day, and next weekend is a holiday weekend.  Let’s see how things unfold:  watch this space!

© Fiona’s Favourites 2016

Tremendous Trees – I

I love trees, and trees are central to so many things in our lives, from paper to picnics.  They bring people together and drive them apart.  As humanity becomes more and more concerned about its future, trees become contentious and no more so than around our village, including when they (or bits of them have) to make way for the ubiquitous telephone and power lines.

Eucalypts are not indigenous to South Africa and, actually, few trees are indigenous to the Western Cape of South Africa, and particularly the biome in which we live.  Other than along river courses, where one sees beautiful, shady Karees, have no significant native trees occur in the  Cape Floristic region.  As a consequence, and for timber (furniture, fencing, firewood, etc.), Eucalypts were introduced from Australia.  They are magnificent, but in a region with young soils and little rain, they literally drain the earth of its lifeblood, water.  They have also become invasive, complicated by the fact that they release chemicals that change the soil profile and “scare” away indigenous flora.

The gum trees opposite our house through which I watch the clouds that herald the summer southeaster and the winter snow. The cold winter’s day that I took this photograph, we expected snow out of those dark clouds.

As some of you may have noticed, many of the photographs taken from The Sandbag House feature power and telephone lines.  The view through those gums, into the village, is no exception.

The view (…through the lines…), past our house, on another balmy, misty, early winter evening.  On the right is an avenue of Karees, also known as the “Karoo Wilge” (willow).

So, back to the controversy.  Early in 2015, there was a hue and cry:  the gums along the river that we cross on the way to the village were being removed.  Now, here’s the conundrum:  the earth and humanity need trees.  Lots of them.  I know that the earth is under threat.  But that doesn’t mean that every tree, as beautiful as it might be, should be allowed to wreak havoc on the indigenous flora and the natural water courses.  Those gum trees along the river had, over the years, choked out the Karees and the reeds, destroying the natural habitat for the local fauna and flora.  Little grew under them;  they also sucked up litres and litres of water that should have been staying in the earth, feeding the groundwater system.  It is the groundwater that the river and boreholes rely on during summer, and with the storage dams are essential for irrigation:  no irrigation and agriculture suffers which has another series of knock-on effects and which I shall not belabour.

All of that said, mature gum trees are beautiful, and there’s a favourite spot where, on the way home from Cape Town, The Husband and I enjoy a shady lunch and a glass of wine.  One of the trees is this magnificent gum.


Pathways and passages – I

February is a significant month:  I first published on Fiona’s Favourites this month, two years ago.  So after browsing through the photographs of my 1999 trip to Spain, for my last post, and thinking about time, I thought it useful to look back on what was, in some ways, was a rite of passage for me.

At the time, a few months before I met The Husband, I was in a very weird space.  That stay in Palma de Mallorca was the first real three-week holiday of my working life.  It was also a time of reflection and resolve.  When I looked at the photographs, last week, I realised that they were, in their own way, full of pathways and passages.

All were taken with (I think) a 35mm point and click camera which had been lent to me.  However, I’ve not scanned them either from the originals, or from the negatives (don’t exactly know where those are), rather I photographed them with my current camera and then tidied them up a little.  Very little – a lot less than I thought I’d have to.

Plaça del Banc de l’Oli, on the way to Carrer de l’Oli, where I stayed.

Hostal Peru, I was told, was a house of ill-repute.

Checking the plaça out on Google Maps, the building is still there, with its curtained windows, sans the sign, and the square looks a little more respectable than it did seventeen years ago.

Carrer de l’Oli

The street, in the Old City of Palma:  the building in which I stayed (on the fourth floor). The flower shop below is reflected in the windows across the way.  It was in a little spice shop down that road, to the left and up Carrer del Sindicat, that I bought my spices.

This was the view from the room in which I slept.


This old Roman house is where I had my first (of many a) cup of café con leche (coffee with milk), and which I passed regularly on my way to the Mercat de L’Olivar.

Gran Café Cappuccino, Carrer de Sant Miquel, Palma de Mallorca

Valdemossa fascinated me for a range of reasons:


The cobbled roads and the colours of neat homes with front doors that open directly on to the streets, each flanked with happy pots of flowers including geraniums which are, incidentally, indigenous to South Africa.


How long have these homes been here, I wondered, with their brilliant colours – the stones, wood, paint work, and more so, the fossils embedded in those walls?


The balcony gardens that one looks down on as one walks where Chopin and his lover, French writer George Sand did when they had sojourned in then vacant Carthusian Monastery.

CarthusianMonasteryGardenI was there in April, into May, so the beautiful monastery gardens were only just beginning to come into their own.

Equally fascinating was the trip from the village to its eponymous port.


The Virgin Mary watches over travellers between the village and the harbour;  she is perched so high up in the mountainside, I’d have missed her had I not been a passenger.


At the end of that precipitous road is the Mediterranean Sea and Valdemossa’s harbour with its boathouses carved into the cliffs.


Bunalbufar intrigued me, not just because, like Valdemossa, the village is perched atop the cliffs and it’s a proverbial day’s journey its the port below, but because of the terraces:  built by the Moor conquerors and not merely in evidence but still maintained and cultivated with citrus, olives and vines. From the deck of a bistro, aptly named Bella Vista, one can just glimpse the port at the bottom of the valley below.

Part of the answer to my question about the age of buildings, I discovered after trudging up the hill to Castell de Bellver.  This is the site of the island’s main fortress, and home to the ancient kings of Mallorca.   Elements of the building date back to before the birth of Christ, and like buildings on South Africa’s Robben Island, it has an interesting history, having served among other things, both as a royal residence, as well as a prison for royal and political prisoners.


This deep, tiny window looks from a room that might well have been a cell, down the battlements to the Mediterranean.


Another South African link: I was surprised, on my regular walks to the nearest Internet cafe, to pass this shop:  Biggie Best, an iconic South African home design company.


This 2000-year old olive tree in pride of place in the plaça, outside the post office and which, I think, had once been a court:  another sense of life, then and now.


I walked along many pathways and passages in Palma and around Mallorca.  At the bottom of the last hill that I climbed in Mallorca ….


this field of spring flowers.


© Fiona’s Favourites 2016

2015 – not sorry to see you go!

In my day job, this has been a challenging year.  I’m not sorry to see the back of it. Some of my best times, other than with The Husband, friends and in my kitchen, have been behind the camera.  Here are some random shots from the beginning of the year.  They don’t fit into any of the themes that I am brewing.

Frans’s veldskoene from which he liberated his toes when he arrived at a friend’s birthday party in January.


Other than this picture, taken with  my Samsung Galaxy Trend phone, all the others were taken with my Samsung 35mm bridge camera.

A February feather left by a Guinea fowl visitor to our garden.


A long, welcoming table at the place where we often stop for a bite on our way home from Cape Town.


A closer look.


Vinny the Thug Pug who welcomes us and guards all those who enter Oxford Cottage.


Although these photos don’t fit into any of my themes, they do fit into Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge


Postscript:  for those interested in my “blogging journey”:

I have been astounded in the increase in the number of views in the last year.  Although this blog only went live in January 2014, the growth this year has been phenomenal.


The visitors come from more than 100 countries and it is to my fellow South Africans that I say the biggest thank you:


This growth in my blog is in no small measure attributable to the Clarrie Bags (i.e. “old” girls from the school I attended) who shared the post I wrote following our 35th school reunion.  This is reflected in the six most-read pieces this calendar year, so to them, a particular thank you:

The School                                                          1,405

Going back to school:  a growing up               269

Sizzling sisters                                                         88

Wacky Wine Weekend:  a sedate version         72

Sunny son-days                                                       63

Pairing flavours (and wine)                                 60

Waste not, want not – II                                        53

Before finally wishing you well for 2016, to those of you who let me know that you read Fiona’s Favourites by commenting, either on the blog, by e-mail or the social media, your taking the time to do this is appreciated more than you will ever know.

May 2016 bring you and yours all you wish for.  My wish for you all is love, peace and lots of happy laughter.

And a last word:

Yesterday’s post should not have happened.  Suffice it to say that I was fiddling about not knowing precisely what I was doing and that notification went out.  I am sorry if it annoyed anyone!

© Fiona’s Favourites 2015


As far as possible, where material and photographs are not mine, I acknowledge the source and/or photographer.  In some instances, who the photographer was, is lost in the mists of time.

As is convention with the use of other people’s intellectual property, use or replication of material on this site should be acknowledged in the usual way, including with links to the original content on Fiona’s Favourites, and acknowledging Fiona Cameron-Brown.

© Fiona Cameron-Brown 2016