Sunday, 20 September 2020

An expanded view.

After almost 10 years of blogging under this site, I have now expanded into an online magazine. This will initially consist of my own articles on a broad range of subjects, with the intention of expanding to select guest contributors who can offer content that is unfamiliar to me. For the moment, I can draw on many interests for inspiration, inculcated in me as a child by parents who participated in many activities right into their late 80s and who gave me a childhood grounding that has enabled me to find joy in the simple pleasures of life as well as appreciate the finer things, such as art, photography, birding and the natural world.
From the first time I learned to write, it has been my passion. That is not a phrase I use lightly or even readily, as I do in fact find Life is my passion, and cannot single out a particular aspect as being the most important. But somehow writing has enabled me to share the experiences I have enjoyed most with others, usually unknown and from far-flung places, and knowing that someone, somewhere, has taken the trouble to read my scratchings and appreciate them in the brief time needed to do so has made the effort so worthwhile. It is my small effort to bring a little light into the world.
So thank you for your readership. This blog will continue, but should you wish to share my world of travel, trips and trails with some food and drink thrown in, you can find me at
It's all about fun!

Saturday, 19 September 2020

Floral fantasy on Slangkop

Despite a dreary day, those irrepressibly cheerful yellow daisies bloomed undeterred on top of Slangkop yesterday! We slogged our way up the zigzag path from the lighthouse (only the beginning really, as the upper path is very easy on the legs) with one thing in mind - to see the fabulous array of spring fynbos currently adorning our mountain. I say 'our' because I live near the lighthouse and have been privileged to see the changing seasons and flowers for nearly 40 years now. The verges become a snowy white carpet of rain daisies, followed by the lovely dark yellow daisies, and beware anyone who mows the lawns in Spring! There are places in Kommetjie that rival the West Coast displays for coverage, if not size, and it seems that nobody ever tires of exclaiming about the flowers, year after year.
It's such a pleasure to hike in cool conditions, where you don't have to bother yourself with how hot you are and can concentrate on the restoration of the soul, but nonetheless the approaching clouds were closely watched. The sea was like a pond, with appropriate reflections from the mountains across the bay, and the breeze was imperceptible, but still the curtain of rain crept closer.
The walk across the plateau is one of my favourites. Roaming these upper mountain areas of the Peninsula is one of the simple joys of life - sandy quartz paths, low-growing fynbos dotted with big mimetes and pincushions, their trunks gnarled with age, miraculous survivors of many fires over the years, gentle sea breezes and views for miles in all directions. It is easy to identify the cut-off levels for many species, some growing only on certain slopes, others above 100m or below - definite preferences. And as you walk there over the seasons, you remember where you saw a certain plant and look out for it to see if it has survived another year. Always exciting to meet an old friend again.
A little sunshine would have warmed the air sufficiently to encourage the jewel-like vygies to open, but a few patches that were sheltered under bushes made breathtaking splashes of pink among the yellows and blues. Positive thinking held off the rain until the minute we finished another delightful morning in the mountains.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

A revived garden

An unusually long winter and abundant rain has transformed my once parched and sparse garden into a veritable jungle! Where once bare sand made up the majority of the lawn, we now have lush daisy lawn that continues to creep in all directions, making it easy to fill in the gaps at the outer edges and between paving stones. Indigenous pelargoniums have grown into large shrubs that can be pruned quite severely with no ill effects, and the aloe collection multiplies as new plants shoot out from the main stem.
The granadilla planted last year has literally gone wild, climbing visibly each day and almost covering the netting put over the now abandoned vegetable patch. This will provide natural shade which is essential to prevent the more delicate vegetables from scorching in the sun, and also reduce the amount of watering required. The sandy, oily soil is not a gardener's delight, but is ideal for growing onions, so perhaps that should be my crop of choice. This plan can only come to fruition if the baboons remain out of Kommetjie, which may well be the case, and vegetable patches and fruit trees can return to supplement our small efforts at self-sufficiency. Onions may not be attractive to them, anyway.
The area under the milkwood tree, which I have been eyeing nervously for the last few years as it loses more and more of its canopy, has surged back with a vengeance, and one almost needs a panga to cut a way through to my peaceful haven under this beautiful tree. The potato bush with white flowers has always suffered from heat and drought and been bare twigs in the main, but it too has revived to such an extent that it has covered half the area. When taking photos today, I noticed that the end of one branch has suddenly produced dark purple flowers (a throwback to its origins, I would think) and then my eye caught a bi-coloured specimen with more buds to open. Exciting times in the garden!
I only hope I will be able to keep them alive in summer. The water table has risen by a good 70cm on last year's level, so prospects look good.

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Spring flowers and greenery

A walk around the base of Lion's Head, or any part of Signal Hill, is a must in Spring, as there is a huge variety of flowers to be seen at this time. The fire earlier this year devastated (from the Latin, vasto, to lay waste) much of the area, which sadly destroyed many of the old proteas and silver trees, but also promoted regeneration of the fynbos which can be very dependent on fire. The watsonias pop out in such an orderly fashion, nicely spaced and looking as though a horticulturist has been hard at work, and will make for a magnificent display later in the year.
The burning away of the bushes now allows for an unobstructed view of the majestic Twelve Apostles, all the way down the coast to the Oudeschip promontory where we walked last week. There is also no place to hide for any would-be criminals, which is always a good thing on the mountains. New growth is everywhere, fed by the abundant rains of winter, although on the down side there is evidence of erosion and landslips as the mountain has shed the rainfall too quickly. One section in particular has narrowed the path somewhat.
With a gap in the rain between the weekend and tomorrow's cold front, the sun was warm but the air a little chilly, which made for perfect hiking conditions. We passed many people enjoying the fresh air, or rather, they passed us. It was like old times.
There is much I would like to comment on relating to the restrictions, but will forbear in view of this being a blog that is intended to uplift and be enjoyed. And for that there is no room for current affairs.
A delightful day in the sunshine, fresh air, bountiful Nature and congenial company.

Monday, 14 September 2020

Tiny spaces

When I was a child, one of my favourite pastimes was making an indoor tent with a sheet draped over chairs and pretending I was living in a very small house. I have always lived in a medium-sized house and doubt that there is any deep-seated trauma to be delved into by a psychologist! I think it was just a forerunner of my great love of caravans! Family holidays were usually camping in a tent, so I am used to the outdoor life, but a caravan was always my ultimate dream. In fact, my only item on a bucket list is to travel somewhere, anywhere in the world, in a Winnebago. Or even live in one, although that carries a slight hint of trailer parks with the accompanying stigma. What I really need is the latest design where you press buttons and rooms slide out from the body of the bus, a small car is stowed under the sleeping area at the back, and a little speedboat is on a trailer behind. This whole contraption would be impossible to take shopping, hence the need for the little car. Of course, the cost of one of these dream vehicles is prohibitive, but I am putting this out there, just in case there is a patron out there who would like me to finish the books I am writing.
It is possible that my yearning for a small space is in direct proportion to my dislike of housework. I cannot see why I should spend my latter years polishing the brass (haven't touched it for years), washing windows inside and out only to cover them with blinds to keep out the damaging sun, or dusting daily when the southeaster blows. Shelves of ornaments have no place in my home. I keep the minimum of mementoes behind glass doors, and even they are being considered for re-homing, As for shelves and shelves of books that haven't been looked at in decades, nor are likely to be, I am sure there are many charity shops that would be glad to shake off their dust.
Both my grandmothers ended their days quite happily in homes for the aged where they just had a single room. I remember visiting them a long time ago now, in the 1960s and 1980s, and despite being a small child and then a young adult, I couldn't help thinking that it would be nice to have just one room.

Friday, 11 September 2020

Sandy Bay to Oudeschip

An overcast and fairly humid day dawned, with a forecast of temperatures in the 20s for Cape Town, and we hoped that our walk from Sunset Rocks at Llandudno to the promontory at Oudeschip would be cool, and to start off it was. This walk can be a killer in the heat of summer, with no shade and a relentless reflection off the water, but today I would say was pretty much perfect. The huge seas of the last week had subsided and a glossy sea spread out before us, grey in the reflection of the clouds.
We were early enough to reach Sandy Bay before the arrival of any nudists, but it would be a different story on the way back - some interesting sights for both parties, I'm sure. I think we are all old enough to take absolutely no offence and in fact enjoy some lively conversation.
Although not bursting with colour, the steep slope of the mountainside had some lovely spring flowers to admire along the way, with the occasional Cape Robin-chat, Malachite Sunbird and Karoo Prinia perfectly perched, and seabirds aplenty down on the rocks. Strings of cormorants sped southwards far out to sea, and on the shore we spotted a pair of African Black Oystercatchers mating. These attractive birds mate for life, and I often wonder what happens if one of them dies. Do they pine away or just look for another mate?
Our refreshment break on the promontory afforded us a good view of the biggest shipwreck currently on the Cape coast - the remains of the floating barge Bos 400, wedged ashore in a winter storm of 1994. Not having its own engine, when the tow rope broke there was nothing to prevent the wreck, and it has joined the Maori in making this bay a dive destination.
The path is not too arduous for the fit, but is not really recommended for those who are unsteady as it is very easy to turn an ankle on the many loose rocks, and it is a bit up and down in places. That said, for the firm of foot it is a most delightful walk, providing wonderful views up and down the coast as far as Langebaan on a very clear day, with a good cardio workout if you keep up the pace. And best done on a cool day. We felt the heat a bit on the way back, but it was worth it.
Our destination is the far promontory

Sandy Bay to Saldanha, almost

Ferraria crispa

Gladiolus with heady scent

Brian's seaside cottage

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

A Raptorous (sic) Time

Over the last year, my son has become a keen birder, particularly with the Nikon D500 in his steady grip, and having started off in the usual place (Kirstenbosch), he has now become enraptured with raptors. Living within a little more than a stone's throw of Wildevoelvlei on the way to Kommetjie, we have started making regular visits to look at the waterbirds, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Fish Eagles that frequent the area.
To say that it is a birder's paradise may be a slight exaggeration, but it isn't far off. We start with observing the Levaillant's Cisticola (making a nest at present) and a few weavers, common fiscals and lovely warblers - Little Rush and Lesser Swamp. Common waxbills whizz around in a little flock, while African Darters fly up and down the channel in the company of Caspian and Swift Terns.
Black crakes with bright beaks and long legs poke around at the edge of the reeds, and a dashing African Swamphen (more excitingly known as a Purple Gallinule) provides a splash of colour against the beige background. Yellow-billed ducks, Cape Teal and Cape Shovellers paddle up and down the channel, their offspring sadly diminishing (see below). The presence of food is what brings the raptors, and although it is never a happy sight, it is always an incredible experience to see them in action.
I haven't accompanied him for a while, and this seems to have brought him incredible luck with sightings.
In the last few days, his observations have been: African Fish Eagles catching fish, African Harrier Hawk with possibly duckling in talons, Peregrine Falcon catching a starling, African Marsh Harrier, Black Harrier (positively identified), Rock Kestrel with lizard, Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk, Black Sparrowhawk, Jackal Buzzard. Quite astounding and some very special sightings with prey.
Almost all of the action was captured on camera and here I share a few.
This will teach me to say, No, I don't feel like going to sit among the mosquitoes! I'll have to slather myself with Tabard and head down there!
Äfrican Harrier Hawk with duckling

Seconds to go for the big fish

Peregrine falcon with starling
Tools of the trade