Tripping the Light Fantastic

When I wrote this just over a hear ago, South Africa, had been in the throes of loadshedding.  I was reminded of this post because it marks a nasty trip that I took.  I cannot believe that was a year ago, and how much, in so many ways, things have not changed.  Loadshedding has made an unwelcome return.  And a lot has.  But that’s for another time.

Lights out

If you play(ed) SimCity as I did in the mid-1990’s, you’d have known these outages as “brown outs” your city grew too big too quickly.  It’s about the only computer game I’ve played (other than one or other game of solitaire), and that on an already ancient ICL Elf and before the advent of a GUI.* Fortunately, this time round, and even though Eskom descended to level 3 loadshedding, for some reason, they haven’t flipped the switch in McGregor.  Last year, when they did and when the lights came back on, I tripped the light fantastic.  Literally.  They were scheduled to go off at 22h00 hours.  They did.

We had forgotten and were engrossed in some Friday, end-of-the-week easy-to-watch drivel on the box.  Although it was full moon, the moon was on the “wrong” side of the house, so it was as dark as night.  I ferreted out my phone, lit a candle and headed upstairs.  I asked asked The Husband who was making our ritual cup of tea, “You’ll make sure all the lights are off, won’t you?”

“Yes dear,” was the long-suffering reply.

Never giving it another thought, I settled into bed and did a little candle-lit reading before we “turned out the light”.  What seemed like about two minutes later, I wake up and the house is ablaze.  In my sleeping stupor, I need to turn the lights off. As usual for January, we were in the throes of a heatwave.  So, heading towards the stairs, I realised that the soles of my feet were dry and slippery.

“Put on your flops,” said the little voice in my head.

“Ag, no,” said the other sleepy, more stupid voice in my head.

Three quarters of the way down the thirteen-step flight of stairs:  slip-trip.  Crash.  M-o-a-n.  Like a the wounded cow I was.  I landed on my posterior which is relatively well padded, but where my spine ends abruptly because the coccyx is long gone.  Because of chairs having been pulled from under me when I was about six or seven.   Thanks to the momentum, I fell backwards with the spot marking an old spinal injury, perfectly positioned to catch the edge of the step above.



The Husband roused from his stupor to find a mo(o)(a)ning cow at the bottom of the stairs.  He helped her to her feet and up the stairs.

Fortunately, I had a card of painkillers in the bedside table and took a couple.  Let’s just say that they didn’t really help.  Everything hurt.  Front, back.  Moving was agony.  The following morning, was market day.  There were things to do.  Somehow, they got done.  The Husband lifted, carried, fetched and bent.  I could do none of it.

Market day

Somehow, the market I did.  Slowly.  I sold all the jam tarts (bar one which The Husband enjoyed) and the cheese and sun dried tomato muffins that I would normally not have made.

As things happened, my market friend, Chicken Pie Janet, had been laid low with a muscle spasm, so I done a few different things not in my usual repertoire.  That said, I’ll never do chicken pies.  According to her customers, nothing could ever match hers.

Full House Sunday Supper

After the market, I get back into the kitchen to prepare for Sunday Supper.  For the first time in a month, we had had enquiries, and they had converted into bookings.  We had a full house.  Probably the last full house Sunday Supper since.   I’ll come back to this.

The menu for that week’s Sunday Supper was simple.

But.  My usual practice is to prepare the soup and dessert on Saturday afternoon and the main on Sunday.  There should have been very little “big” prep for the main course.  I had cleaned out The Country Butcher’s stock of apple-smoked chicken.  There were be eight diners and ten people to feed (including The Husband and I), and none of them was vegetarian or vegans.  I was concerned that I would run out of chicken.

Plan B

Hastily, I had to conjur up a plan B and remembered the gammon that had escaped Christmas.  For the first time, in Sunday Supper’s two-odd year history, guests had options for their main course.  In addition to the mango and smoked chicken, I added melon and ham as an alternative.

In a fair amount of pain, I had to think of the least agonising way to do that, so I cooked it in the slow cooker.  It cooked at the same rate that I was able to move.  Somehow, I got myself through Saturday and by about 6pm, the soup – a banting take on a vichyssoise – and the cheesecake (with grating help from The Husband) were done.  Recipes for these to come – in time.

Sunday dawned and every bit of my torso ached and hurt when I moved.  Just getting myself from horizontal to vertical was a challenge.  Bending from the knee was mandatory rather than recommended.  The day was a steady, achy plod to get things ready for the main course and set the tables.  The Husband always rearranges the furniture and sweeps.  He had to help drape the cloths, the white and blue, from Russia with love, had its Sunday Supper debut.

Cheesecake with fresh granadilla (TL) and the caremelised leek and cauliflower soup (BR); the tables ready and waiting for diners.

Chilli Lime Mango Salad – Three ways

This is a great meal for hot summer days or evenings.  Sunday was day two of what had been a six-day heatwave with temperatures in excess of 35ºC (95ºF).  This time, when I set the menu, I trusted the man in the weather app.  It was also the time of year when we can have diners who are omnivores, vegetarians or plant eaters – from all over the world.  This salad fits all those bills.  The champions of this salad include fresh mangoes, three fresh herbs dhanya (coriander/cilantro), mint and chives as well as onion rings.  The dressing is equally simple:  runny honey, lime juice, chopped chilli and olive oil.

Serve on a bed of leaves and with couscous, or on a bed of noodles, with a side of green salad.  For carnivores, chicken is the the of protein of choice and feta feta cheese with cashew nuts for vegetarians; for plant-based eaters, either lose the feta or substitute it with a vegan cheese.

Most of the ingredients for the salad and dressing – from our garden. Red onions are prettier, but white will do if you don’t have any.

Download a printable version of the recipe here.

A last word or two

It would seem that our diners enjoyed their evening.

With hindsight, and now I’m in a lot less pain and a lot more mobile, I have absolutely no idea how I pulled Sunday off.  Next time there is loadshedding, I hope not to be tripping the light fantastic.

A year or so, on

Looking back, I still have no idea how I managed to do either the market or Sunday Supper.  Our diners had no idea that I was in such agony.  I am glad.  It was also an object lesson on what one can  achieve if one sets one’s mind to it.

As I mentioned, that evening was probably the last, and possibly ever, full house for Sunday Suppers.  The COVID-19 virus wave was beginning to spread.  We were watching what was happening to the east and to the north.  Waiting.  It was coming and I shared my initial thoughts in a rant and commented on how what have now become known as the “non-pharmaceutical interventions” worked.  Funny how, nearly a year later, and even with the roll out of vaccines, and as this very catchy virus that can make people very, very sick, mutates, it is these practices that have become mandatory in virtually every country in the world.

Manadatory mask for stepping out in public:  with the not mandatory but essential in McGregor sunnies and sun hat at the market.

How things change.  How things have not.

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

Photo: Selma

*Graphic User Interface – for the unitiated.  Invented by Steve Jobs and adopted by Bill Gates and responsible for mice.

Post Script

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