Monday, May 24, 2010

The Famous Tablecloth

A lot of my most serendipitous images occur at inconvenient times, like these ones for instance.  Supper was simmering away in the oven as I walked downstairs to put the car in the garage.  On the way back up to the house I noticed ethereal wisps of cloud just beginning to slip over the top of the mountain. 

Knowing what this heralded, I turned off the oven, grabbed my camera, and drove down to the reservoir two blocks below the house.  Luck was on my side for a change and I found a parking spot without too much driving around.  After crossing  the rush hour traffic road and climbing a steep flight of steps I set up next to the diamond mesh fence which runs around the reservoir, poked my lens through a gap and started to photograph. 

Alas, it was only then I discovered that in my rush to get down to the reservoir before the sun faded I hadn't checked which lens was on the camera and I'd come out with my 28-200 instead of my 17-40.  The second dismaying discovery was the wind!  Blowing so hard that I had to cling to the fence with one hand and try to steady the camera with the other whilst my shirt was being blown up around my shoulders will explain why the pictures may be a little less than pin sharp.  No panoramic shots either, I'm afraid.

"Table Mountain is flanked on the east by the legendary Devil's Peak. As the story goes Van Hunks, a pirate in the early 18th century, retired from his eventful life at sea to live on the slopes of Devil's Peak. He spent his days sitting on the mountain, smoking his pipe. One day a stranger approached him, and a smoking contest ensued which lasted for days. The smoke clouds built up and a strong wind blew them down towards the town. When Van Hunks finally won the contest, the stranger revealed himself to be the Devil (hence Devil's Peak), and the two disappeared in a puff of smoke. Legend says that the cloud of smoke they left became Table Mountain's tablecloth - the famous white cloud that spills over the mountain when the south-easter blows in summer.

The Upper Cable Station is the tiny building that can be seen on the extreme right of the flat table.

Of course, the phenomenon is also supported by a meteorological explanation. The moisture-laden south-easter blows against Table Mountain from over the False Bay and rises. At a height of approximately 900 meters the winds reach the colder layers of air and thick clouds form. These clouds roll over the mountain and down towards the City Bowl. The characteristic tablecloth forms when the clouds reach the warmer, lower air layers and dissolve once more."  *

The dying rays of the setting sun light up the clouds in multitudinous shades of apricot and amethyst, contrasting with the strong clear blue of the sky behind. 


Friday, May 21, 2010

Greens Galore

Building renovations have left the garden, not to mention the house, covered in a thick layer of red dust, so it was a delight to nip out during one of the first winter showers, umbrella tucked between neck and shoulder to capture a few photographs of the freshly washed and gleaming plants.

The smooth lime green leaflets of Duranta "Sheena's Gold" dazzle against the darker, tooth-edged leaves of Plectranthus Mona Lavender with their deep purple undersides.

The glossy leaves of Rhaphiolepis add to the bouquet of greens so brightly set off against the old red brick path found in so many of the circa 1920s Cape Town city houses.  The terracotta pots have been cleared of their pink petunias which flourished in abundance despite the bouts of five day south-easterly summer winds.  The pots have taken a bit of a knock from the builders' wheelbarrows but the planned blue, yellow and white pansies should divert attention from the missing chunks of pottery.

The roses are grimly hanging in there, thoroughly baffled and confused by the fact that summer has continued for so long, interspersed by the odd cold, rainy day. 

 Tucked away in a sheltered corner, but not to be overlooked, the flashy Begonias do their best to outshine all contenders with their flashy, ballerina-skirt blooms shedding petals with every rain droplet.

Friday, May 14, 2010

You must have been a beautiful baby ...

Tomorrow morning my sister and I are going to a baby shower for her daughter in law.  Each guest has been asked to bring along a photograph of themselves as a baby.  With the building work still in progress and our lives now restricted to the kitchen and bedroom and office work taking up to ten hours a day, I had a moan about having to dig deep into dusty cupboards and boxes to find a baby picture of myself.

 My parents owned a Brownie Box camera and I've seen beautiful photographs taken with these cameras but, unfortunately, they weren't taken by my folks.  To find a picture where a third of the baby wasn't cut off or photographed from a distance was a fairly difficult exercise.  After paging through three albums full of photos of people I couldn't identify I found  this picture which I rather like, mainly because of its simplicity - just a smiling baby dressed in vest and nappy lying in a deckchair.  

I know from seeing the clothing I was dressed in that it must have been an exceptionally hot and humid day and from the old-fashioned beachchair I know that we must have been visiting my grandparents.  In an instant memories of childhood holidays spent at my grandparents' home flooded back.  My sisters and I waking each morning to the smell of freshly baked bread, grandpa having risen early each morning to bake; watching the cows being milked and marvelling at the little calves with their beautiful, gentle faces; hiding under the large wooden table on the back verandah eating stolen oranges; delving into a brown paper packet filled with a tempting variety of old-fashioned sweets (candy?) which grandpa always kept for us in his office drawer; lying in bed at night and drowsing off while the flickering little flames of the dying fire lit the room enough to allay our dark night fears.

I guess you could say that my rather ungracious agreement to find a baby picture actually turned into a happy  trip back into childhood memories and, with any luck, the start of a project to digitize the best family photos if only I can find them.  My sisters are going to be getting some phonecalls this weekend!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Goodbye Yolanda

Glamorous Yolanda arrived in our lives three years ago and within a short time became a much loved  member of our family.  Promotion within her company has meant that she is moving to Johannesburg and while we are going to miss her terribly, we know that she is going to love this larger city with its competitive working environment and buzzing social scene.  In our family occasions such as birthdays, holidays, visitors arriving from overseas and so, are all excuses for for special lunches or dinners and plenty of wine, so this departure was no exception.

The wine glass shapes and glorious hues of the wine were almost echoed by the sparkling waters of the nearby fountains.

My family have eaten sushi for much longer than me and I can remember a time when I refused to even touch  cold fish although I conceded that the artistically arranged platters looked really pretty.

Then one day I decided that life was too short not to try new taste experiences and, with some trepidation, grasped one of  "the slippery little suckers" (Julia Roberts - Pretty Woman) with awkwardly wielded chopsticks and managed to convey it to my mouth.  What had I been missing for all those years!!!  I was hooked and I think nearly every time we've been out since then I've opted for sushi, more particularly salmon roses.  The pale green wasabi paste,  however, was a whole other and more painful experience.

 This was one of the few occasions when I preferred to eat pan-fried Cape Salmon because Norwegian wasn't available on account of the Iceland volcano fallout.  I must say that this might just have been one of the most delicious and perfectly cooked pieces of salmon I've ever had.

Finally, after tearful goodbye speeches, an obliging waitron took this pic for us - that's my daughter Andrea at left back and Yolanda at right back.  We're going to miss you, Yollie, please visit soon.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Autumn Vineyards

It's autumn in the Cape and every morning city and harbour are swathed in a layer of low lying mist.  The mournful call of the foghorns and the salty smell of the sea drift up the mountain slopes and the mist slowly dissipates as the sun rises above the Boland mountain ranges.  The days are beautiful now, warm and mellow and the light has changed from bright gold and blue to a softer old brass and milky blue shades. 

We took a slow afternoon trip out into the Durbanville wine growing area, with its vineyards snuggled between rolling valleys and softly rounded hills.  The grapes have been picked and the leaves are turning to shades of yellow, gold,  green and red, glowing valiantly against against the setting afternoon sun.

A ubiquitous feature of  South African wine farms, brilliant bougainvillea sprawling over a wine barrel, Cape Green painted sash window, vine tendrils drooping from a pergola above and intricate patterns thrown against whitewashed walls.

After driving up a perilously winding, one vehicle-width road with with car undercarriage-wrecking drops at each side, we arrived at the top of one of the highest hills in the area.  

The views from here are simply stupendous, patchwork vineyards, edged by dark gree trees and dotted here and there with white-wash cottages.   Flocks of white birds float in perfect formation over the fields, dipping and swooping, never settling even for a moment.  The Boland mountains can be seen in the distance and in winter are are often covered in snow.

Edging our way down the hill again, slowly and with some trepidation, praying not to meet another car on its way  up, we found a place to pull over and take more pictures.  My daughter disappeared down a row of vines and, being able to crouch and kneel on the ground, was able to take some quite wonderful pix.

I contented myself with a couple of awkward shots through the leaves at the tops of the vines, without managing to fall over all the vine clippings and stones lying on the ground.  Isn't it amazing what poor soil grapevines will flourish in?

Next we drove up another hill to take a look at Durbanville Hills Winery, even though we knew that it would be closed on a Sunday afternoon.  As the birthplace of one of our all time favourite wines, Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc, this state of the art winery has an exceptional glass-fronted restaurant with panoramic views, notably of Table Mountain, the distant ocean and the surrounding countryside.  I particularly liked this pedestrian ramp with its beautiful sandstone cladding, stretching up towards the blue sky.

Small velvety green areas of lawn adorned the garden on the flat terrace at the top of the ramp and green and silver trees shaded the softly trickling water rills.

At the end of an afternoon filled with such visual beauty, the day had to be completed by a glass of liquid perfection.


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