Of Wine and Truffles

Yesterday was not a good day. I found out that a bottle of expensive wine that I bought almost a year ago disappeared out of the back of my grocery cupboard. The only thing I can think is that it was taken by the once-off cleaning lady and her companion that came to help me spruce up The Cave during level three of the lockdown. I left them alone for maybe a half hour to go and buy them some groceries as part of their agreed remuneration. It’s not so much the wine, but the memory attached to the bottle. I bought it for the girls’ night Eliza, Carmen and I had when we knew that Carmen was leaving to join Ewan in the Land of the Kiwis. We never got around to drinking it, but we made a pact to drink it together – Eliza and I at her house, with Carmen on a video call. To add insult to injury I felt a migraine setting in late afternoon and I felt all round blegh. Anyway, what’s done is done; there’s nothing I can do about it.

It’s Friday and nobody want to listen to gripes anyway, so I am going to share another kitchen adventure with you.

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Day 126: A Promise Almost Un-Kept…

After 126 days in lockdown, there is still no real sign of when a sense of normality will return. I know that life as we knew it before COVID-19 will never be the same, but still, having the freedom to do some of the things we used to, would be nice. Anyhow, I’m not going to rant. It just sets me off into a downward spiral.

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Day 110 (I Think): K’Ching Cheddar

There I was, merrily typing away when poof, off went the computer and the deafening silence that only loadshedding brings, set in. We were supposed to be on stage one, but apparently a half hour before 14h00, they upped the ante. I had a number of consequential four-letter words that I silently screamed at Eskom. Aside from work that gets behind, I am worried about the fridge. It has taken to making a loud knocking sound every now and then. I hope it isn’t on it’s way out. Anyhow, I caught up some of the lost hours, with a delicious treat-coffee.

Given that I couldn’t work, I decided to go to the shop for the missing ingredients for the boozy mac and cheese that I keep seeing in my saved FB items.. Holy crap! Dinkum hard cheese is pricey. I’m talking R420 a kilo expensive. To add insult to injury, it is better travelled than I am! Made in Poland, matured in Italy. Pfffffffft!

As I stood with a mere 148 grams of it in my hand, uhm’ing and ah’ing about if I really wanted to try the recipe that much, the Cookery Goddess, Penelope (who has been on hiatus) emerged and said, “For crying in a pot of minestrone soup, you’re willing to toss half a cup of Old No.7 in this dish. Buy the effing cheese!” I knew best not to argue – people tend to look at me funny when I have a conversation with Pen in the middle of the dairy aisle.

I am going to make the mac and cheese tomorrow, assuming Eskom doesn’t put the power off in the early afternoon. Lord knows, this mac and cheese better live up to all the anticipation I have built up and the money I’ve spent on ingredients. Penelope had better come up with other recipes to use this cheese because I’ll be damned if I’m letting it turn into a penicillin-based science experiment in the (possibly retiring) fridge. On the flip-side I got paprika for almost R12 less than the local grocery shop here. The brown sugar was on special too. Penny best be clever there too. Last time she had me buy castor sugar for something and when I eventually wanted to use it, the ants had built slopes in the box and were donning skis.

It is less cold than yesterday, for which I am grateful. Even though there isn’t much warmth in the sun, the light is bright and the sky is blue. The alien tapeworm is also dormant – another thing for which I give thanks. I’ve only had a cup of coffee, my Herbalife shake, and two apples today. Tonight I shall most likely have some fish and roast vegetables.

I tried to wear my ankle boots that have a slight heel. I lasted all of ten minutes walking with them. My ankle did not appreciate being bent at an awkward angle. I very quickly put on the spare pair I had in the boot of my car. The Toppie is always on me about my car being like a travelling wardrobe, but today it was a blessing. My ankle is sore, but without a change of shoes the pain would be worse.

Before lockdown was implemented a hundred and whatever days ago, a few friends and I celebrated a friend’s birthday. There we joked about driving around ever weekend in search of the perfect carrot cake. We even joked about having a van, with WortelKoeke on the outside – the blokes being the wortels and the gals being the koeke. In this spirit, I want to do the same kind of thing, but for the perfect savoury pie, preferably pepper steak.

This may be #TMI, but after shitting through the eye of a needle for four days earlier this month thanks to a dodgy chicken mayo vetkoek sarmie, I’m averse to the idea of eating anything chickeny unless I’ve cooked it myself or seen it being prepared. I don’t wish diarrhoea for days on anyone.

Many South Africans are sad because Nestle is discontinuing Chocolate Log bars. They’ve been around since 1969, but in all my life if I’ve eaten one a year, it’s a lot.

I’m not big on marshmallowy chocolates, except Sweetie Pies; if it has peanut butter in it I will devour it, but failing that anything wafery is good, as is a Peppermint Crisp, Flake or anything by Cadbury. I swear I can taste the glass and a half of milk in every block. When I came back from my holiday to Singapore in 2004, I bought a Cadbury Black Forest slab at the airport. It was deliciously indulgent. I broke off a single block every so often and savoured it. That slab must have lasted at least three months which is a record for chocolate when I’m around.

While infections continue to rise, recoveries go unmentioned, and Eskom continues to freeze us out of the warmth and light many of us pay for, life is good – Rachel the Rocket continues to grow, work chugs along, and I’ve not yet acted on murderous impulses – but, it is only Wednesday…

Day One Hundred and Whatever! Who Cares? I’m Freezing!

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Centenarian Legend

( I always try not to use real names in my blog, but for this entry, I must. It pays homage to a Grand Old Dame, one who will live on in the hearts of many people. I cannot write from a perspective of knowing many of the other family members, so the fact that I reference only a few is simply because they are who I know.)

There are legends, and then there are legends. I’m not talking about people like dead presidents, imaginary superheroes that stop the world imploding, or people that started some kind of revolution that brought about a type of good in the world.

I’m talking about regular people that have more life experience than many of us could ever hope to have. One such person is Sylvia Palmer aka Shelagh-Rose’s Granny. I also called her Granny. Aunty Sylvia always sounded wrong to me. She passed away in the early hours of this morning at the ripe old age of 100 years, 8 months and 12 days. How many people to you know are even close to that age?

Shelagh-Rose and I have been friends for thirty-one years already, and through it all, Granny had always been there, guiding her. The bond they had was a close one; something incredibly special and in today’s day and age, extremely hard to find.

What never struck me growing up, is that my maternal side of the family knew the Palmers, so my friendship with Shelagh-Rose is more deep-rooted than I knew. I like to think destined.

My Aunty Cathy would often regale the tale of how she, my cousin, Lorna, Douglas (Shelagh-Rose’s uncle), and their friend David took a bike ride down Park Side West. David was in the saddle, Douglas on the carrier, Lorna (Cathy’s niece, my cousin, Douglas’s girlfriend) on his shoulders and Cathy on the handlebars. Yes – four children on one bicycle. It sounds like a circus act! As if that’s not enough to give any one a mild panic attack, the bike had no brakes! David scuffed his shoes to try and stop the bike, which shot across the Marsh/Church Street intersection, finally losing momentum at the dry cleaners close to The Point. I wondered this morning when I heard the news of Granny’s final breath if she every knew of this specific adventure.

The Bean told me a story about how her interactions with both Sylvia and her husband, Ray. They had a shop in town called Palmers. Every day Mrs. Gogerty (who was The Bean’s senior at the Scheltema offices) would send her to Palmers to buy a packet of biscuits for the office and Granny would write it up – back in the day when people were still honest enough to buy on the book.

There are many stories that I’ve heard from Elizabeth about her mother. All of them depict Granny to be a woman of incredible poise, wisdom, and everlasting love for her late husband. The two were married for only ten days before Ray was called up to train for combat in the Second World War. All through it Granny never doubted that The Love of Her Life, her Beloved Ray would one day return to her.

During the war, just before his return home, his platoon drew straws to be flown home, or sent by ship. Ray drew the short straw, which meant a longer journey home, but a journey home indeed. His fellow brothers in arms weren’t so fortunate; their plane was shot down and there were no survivors.

I was in primary (elementary) school when tragedy struck Granny. She was attacked in her home and sexually assaulted by a young criminal. Despite the horror what no woman ever hopes will ever befall her, Granny survived, exuded more grace, and was resolute in her decision to stay in her home of countless years. Elizabeth had a wedding photo taken on the steps of that very house, and years later so did Shelagh-Rose.

Elizabeth, Shelagh-Rose and Granny on the steps on Shelagh-Rose’s wedding day.

Granny lived on her own until the age of ninety-seven, when a nasty fall resulted in her hurting her hip. Strong as an ox she lay in agony for a few days before finally calling Elizabeth for help. As expected, she needed a hip replacement and the shock of major surgery began to take its toll.

Granny got dementia. There were days when her mind was still sharp, and there were others when she didn’t know her own children. She adamantly fought with Shelagh-Rose one day for having a child, but not being married.  This while Schalk, Shelagh-Rose’s husband, was in the room with them.

Granny with Suzelle, her great grandaughter (Shelagh-Rose’s & Schalk’s daughter).
Photo by https://www.lynellepienaar.com/
Four generations of Palmer women. FLTR: Shelagh-Rose, Suzelle, Granny, & Elizabeth.
Photo by https://www.lynellepienaar.com/

She knew I cared deeply for a friend that works on the cruise ships and kept asking me if we’d got married. I eventually told her we had, that it was the most beautiful wedding and that he was set to be away for a year. She never asked again. I don’t know if she forgot about my phantom nuptials, or if my answer satisfied her enough not to ask again. Either way, I appreciated that until I gave her an answer, she always asked.

One afternoon while she was still staying on the farm with Elizabeth, before her move to the ACVV home where she was well looked after, she told me a story about a woman in the district who would come to fetch her to take her to town to have her hair done. She also told me about the nurse who would visit. Both these people turned out to be Elizabeth. Some much change in such a short time was tough on Granny.

During her stay at the farm, Granny had a need to unpack and repack her cupboards every day. Try as she might, Elizabeth couldn’t convince her mom to stop doing it. Maybe in Granny’s addled mind it brought order, although to Elizabeth it brought some chaos. As short as Granny was, she also always managed to get stuff off the high shelves, but she had to get Schalk to put things back. These things seemed silly and frustrating at the time, but now they won’t ever happen again.

Even though I never visited the home where Granny spent the last few years of her life, and even though I’m not family, I feel incredible gratitude to the staff. From what I’ve heard from Elizabeth and Shelagh-Rose, they cared for Granny with compassion and patience – two characteristics that are often difficult to maintain when working with anyone, particularly an elderly person who for so long was independent, and towards the end was almost as fragile as a newborn baby.

I was privileged to be at Granny’s centenary birthday celebrations last October. I got the job of capturing the moments, not that I’m much good with the camera, but Elizabeth and Shelagh-Rose seemed pleased with the results, so all’s well that ends well. It was a momentous occasion, with Granny as the guest of honour (completely unaware of the celebration). All her family and friends that could be there, were in attendance, including her brother, Robert, who himself is in his seventies. Granny was lucid that day – something which I think her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren were happy about. For many, including myself, that is how I will remember her.

In one blow, Granny extinguished her 100 candle.

On the walls at the party, there were photos of Granny’s life – from the age of knee-high to a grasshopper, to her wedding, and so on. When she saw her wedding photo, she cried. Oh how, she missed her Beloved Ray. It was such a poignant moment. How many of us ever find love, especially a true, everlasting love that not even death can overcome?

Sylvia Palmer, you’ve run a great race. You’ve been a beacon of hope, a shining light, and a pillar of strength to those around you. The wait is over… you are now with Your Beloved Ray. We mourn your departure, but we celebrate your incredible life. Rest in Peace – you’ve earned it!

Day 103: World Chocolate Day

It’s been a while since I’ve written a grocery list, let alone a blog post. A friend sent me a message on Friday telling me she misses me – and my blog.

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Day 55: MEH!

I’ve not blogged for a while. I know I should, but I’ve been feeling so meh the past few days.

There have been days when the only time I’ve got out of bed has been to get a glass of water or to pee. I’ve even worked from my bed. I’m emotionally exhausted from lockdown. Fortunately, I still have work to do every day which helps keep the sanity levels just short of the red.

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Day 30: A Simple Saturday

Today I slept until something past 11. I don’t even feel guilty either. The last fortnight has been riddled with troublesome sleep and nightmares. My duvet has been so twisted every morning, one would swear I was sharing my bed with a Boggart.

I cooked yesterday. A Cape Malay curry – with the spice mix out of a packet. The smells emanating from The Cave (because the stove is virtually in the middle of the place) were amazing. My white rice was finished, so I had it with a brown variety. It was delicious – and, there are leftovers for supper tonight. I’m looking forward to it because curry often tastes better the next day.

Lucy the lettuce continues to sprout new leaves, so I am happy. At some stage, when I can get a pot and soil, I will re-home her. For now, she appears to be thriving on the sink. Once I have some kind of setup, I will start keeping my food scraps for compost too.

The streets are quiet. So much so, that I can hear the neighbour’s TV across the road. The voices sound like they have a Southern twang. Every now and then there is trumpet music too. If I have to judge by the snippets of the soundtrack, I think it’s an old movie.

I didn’t listen to the Ministers’ addresses this morning, but I got the gist of what’s happening. One thing I don’t understand is Oom Cyril said we will be allowed to exercise under strict hygienic conditions, yet according to Minister Whatever-Her-Name-Is, we’re not allowed to walk, or jog. Guess I’ll have to have the tyres of the bicycles pumped, even though I can’t sit on the saddle and reach the pedals at the same time.

Tomorrow Eliza, Carmen and I have a video call scheduled. It’s been a while since. The last few days I’ve been thinking about my friends that have emigrated. It must be incredibly tough being away from your extended family. One friend I was at school with, Lana and her husband, Robert moved to Australia, arriving about three weeks before lockdown was imposed. Their pets have been released from mandatory quarantine in SA, but are not yet able to be sent over. It’s heartbreaking for them. Consciously, I don’t think some people realise just how much pets do become family members.

Shayla-Rae’s Gran has also been on my mind a lot of late. The Old Dame turned 100 (yes, you read right) in October last year, which means she was alive when the Spanish Flu riddled the world, and she’s alive today with the Coronavirus. She’s in a local old age facility in town. The residents were locked down a week before the rest of the country was. I wonder how she is holding up – whether she even knows what’s happening 😦

I’m keen to hear how we will be working, with the allowance of staff only allowed to be at a third of full capacity. I imagine shifts will be the answer. Our management is extremely communicative, so I’m sure that by Tuesday we will have concrete news. Part of me is seriously looking forward to seeing my colleagues again, while part of me is going to miss the freedom that flexitime has afforded to get more rest and learn more about myself. I am indeed fortunate to be returning to work – some many workers are not yet able to do so.

We’re in for a tough few months; where you can, support your local businesses that are operational, share from your pantry stores if you can, acknowledge unhappy feelings (because they will come up) but don’t dwell on them, drink water, and remember that you matter!

Years from now, when we look back with the perfect vision that hindsight brings, each one of us will smile and say, “We survived a pandemic. We were part of history!”

‘Til next time…