Monday, August 23, 2010


Just as pleasurable as Wordsworth's daffodils, this beautiful cyclamen, a present from my sister, fills my heart with pleasure.  Delicate candy-pink petals against the blue winter sky evoke the spirit of spring which still seems quite far off, in spite of 1 September being the official start  of the season of freesias, daffodils and new lettuce-green oak leaves. 

When I asked a friend for advice on taking care of the cyclamen, she remarked that her child used to call the blossoms "upside-down flowers", a more appropriate description than "sowbread", an old name for the plant, so-called because the tubers were dug up and eaten by wild pigs. 

Another often-used and more pleasing name for cyclamen is Persian violet.  To me the petals look like the butterflies flitting around the newly-blossoming shrubs in my garden. 

"The flower symbolism associated with these flowers is resignation and goodbye.  This symbolism makes cyclamen especially appropriate for gifts for friends who are retiring or relocating"(  I'm not planning either activity at the moment but the thought of retiring to a small seaside village  is certainly enticing.

Another source  ( describes how the tubers of the cyclamen were ground up and baked into flat cakes with the reputation of being "a good amorous medicine", but warns that cyclamen are poisonous to cats and fish.  So keep your your feline fancier of flower petals away from your precious potplant!

Cyclamen is also described as a self-esteem and confidence builder - it certainly made me feel peaceful and contented after spending some time photographing the fragile blossoms.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Lavender and Orange

An unexpected afternoon away from the office and a chance to visit  The Vineyard Connection, a boutique wine shop set amongst the exquisitely beautiful Stellenbosch winelands. We wanted to track down a particular wine which wasn't available directly from the estate but which we were told was stocked by the boutique.

Tangled masses of lavender, pierced by the flaming red hot poker flowers exerted a magnetic force on arrival and I left MDH to the exacting but pleasurable task of wine sampling. 

Undulating fields of winter-bare vines surrounding the wine boutique lead up to white washed buildings and soft rolling hills.

Swarms of honey bees made pushing my way into the lavender plants quite a perilous undertaking but, as usual, when in the grip of a photographing frenzy, I was oblivious .

Terracotta pots of citrus trees line the front of the building and good for the plant or not,  the lichen (?) growing on the trunks makes an interesting picture.

Returning to the building, expecting to see cartons of wine being loaded into the car,  this sight greeted me; which just goes to prove that you can take the man out of the office, but in the age of technology, he'll take the office with him.

By means of vigorous and expressive gestures,  I separated man and cellphone and we went into the sampling lounge. Sunlight streaming through glass doors bathed the interior in honey-golden glow and brought out the sheen of yellowood tables.  Entranced by bright colour, as I am, the wooden bowls of oranges attracted me like the lavender outside had enticed the bees.

No looking at the enticing bottles of wine arranged on the shelves lining the entire room, no tasting  for me, just a picture-taking frenzy of oranges and Kelim rugs. 

Obsessed by light and colour.  Who me?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

City Glimpses

I carry my DSLR around with me as much as I can, given that it's quite heavy and rather bulky to fit inside a handbag.  Consequently most of my picture snapping takes place at the weekend on specifically planned short trips. Occasionally, however, there's time for coffee or lunch in the city and there's always something eyecatching to photograph.  Brunch in the Cape Quarter, is a enjoyable choice on a Sunday morning, especially if it's followed by a leisurely window shop past the art galleries and a satisfying browse in the bookshop.

The curvaceous sculptures below are made by an artist called Jean Doyle, whose work much sought after both here and overseas, has helped those of us with, shall we say more generous figures, to feel good about our curves.

Outside the beautiful mall, in a narrow cobbled street, a sunwashed wall, with its peeling paint, striped awnings and geranium-filled flowerboxes - you could be somewhere in Provence.

Moving down towards Somerset Road, which formed part of the fanwalk during the World Cup, a car guard enjoys the winter sunshine while keeping an eye on a sleek motorbike.  Many of the car guards are French-speaking refugees from the rest of Africa, particularly the Congo, and although some of them are highly qualified in their particular careers, they are not allowed to work while their refugee status is being sorted out, so car guarding is a means of earning some income to support themselves and their families.

Murals and flags still remain in many places in the city.  In spite of everyone's misgivings before the World Cup, we all enjoyed it immensely and feel pretty nostalgic about those weeks of colour, excitement, partying and friendliness.

The trunks of the trees planted alongside the canal which flows the length of Adderley Street are still wrapped in their celebratory colours.

 Shimmering reflections in the tranquil waters while metallic streams of motor vehicles hurtle past on both sides  of the canal.

 And finally, with a little planning, you too can make the most of your lunch hour with a power nap in the sunshine.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Slow Life

So there we were on Sunday, acting like the motorists that everyone hates, the (ahem) older couple driving  slowly along the side of the road while all the "stressed, no time, can't waste a second" types flashed past us.  We were driving out to a little country town called Riebeeck Kasteel to collect some belongings my husband had left behind at a guesthouse two weeks before while visiting there to cheer on a friend taking part in the Berg River Canoe Marathon.  Truth be told, La is a little like Queen Elizabeth I who is alleged to have slept in so many different beds the length and breadth of England - only in my husand's case he leaves items of clothing, his reading spectacles or books in hotels and guesthouses all over South Africa.

Anyway, the reason for the leisurely pace of the driving was to be able to stop whenever a beautiful scene presented itself and in the golden light of the late afternoon there was no shortage of subjects.

Grass so green and luscious you just wanted to lie down and roll around in it, which I pretty much did due to losing my footing on several occasions.  And, in the distance, the promise of golden canola fields in the near future.

An old red wagon gently rusting away in the mellow afternoon sun.  Who can say how many tons of  wine or table grapes it carried in its time?

The south western Cape is so green at the moment after the rains that you could be forgiven for thinking that this picture was taken anywhere else but South Africa.

In the distance lies the little town of Riebeeck Kasteel nestled at the foot of the Kasteelberg Mountains.  The quaint little village is surrounded by wheatlands, vineyards and olive groves and I also noticed orchards of trees covered in lacy pink blossoms.  An extremely popular annual olive festival turns the town into something very close to a Tuscan type village, if you can believe it.

The vines are still bare from their winter pruning but here and there the tender sap-green of a leaf or two can be detected.

As we were leaving the village these children saw me taking pictures and unlike most people who hastily move away to avoid having their pix taken,  these little kids couldn't run up fast enough to take a look at my photographs, offer advice and insist on having their portraits taken.  They even knew where and how they should pose for best effect - obviously experienced models!


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