Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Seapoint Research Trip with Chocolate

Serendipity on a plate at My Sugar
There are two sorts of days when you write for a living. The ones where you sit at your computer all day, um, writing...  plus the ones where the entire day goes by at your computer not actually writing anything publishable, (make that three sorts), but sending out endless emails to people that you need information or images from with  frequent lapses onto Facebook just to distract you from the fact that not a single word has been written, apart from all those email words which don’t count towards your word count.

And then there are, very occasionally, days like today. Golden days. Days that start out with one plan and end up serendipitously turning into something else. Today we had a client meeting in town at 10, which I planned on following up with a quick drive around Seapoint in Cape Town, to research background for an article that has a looming deadline. So I dressed for a casual meeting,one step up from my work at home winter uniform of jeans and fleece jacket, and headed out with my husband (we work as a team for our web clients) into a sunny but very windy winter day driving along the N7 to town, long views of Table Mountain all the way.

Then just as we hit the N1 he gets a call to cancel the meeting, one partner called away the other one keeping the business going single handed, can we postpone?

So suddenly the whole morning lies ahead of us and all of Seapoint to research. Our first port of call is a little cafe called My Sugar that opened recently and that I will review for another article later on. I’d originally planned on just a quick look in today, but now with no meeting and Patrick desperate for coffee, we grab a table and I settle in to tasting... chocolates. Yes my best... and if ten o’clock in the morning ought to be too early who cares, chocolate is always chocolate and this is the real deal. I’m not going to review it here yet because I need to save the drum rolls for my print article, but suffice to say that if you love good chocolate and good coffee, you have to go there and taste for yourself.

Two perfect chocolates on a plate at My Sugar
Back to the car and ready to go exploring we find ourselves in the road a friend now lives in. On the off-chance we phone to see if she’s around, to find her kicking her heels at home between the arrival of various electricians and window fitters, with plenty of time to chat. A cup of tea and catch up are followed by a personalized guided tour of the back streets of Seapoint, gathering way more detail and local gossip than will ever fit into my article but so much more interesting with a life-long local to show you around than to go researching on your own.

We headed up to the heights of Fresnaye where huge houses are worth multiple millions (R60 million for some), and where stunning views out over the ocean or up behind at the mountain are enjoyed by security watchmen and builders, while absent foreign owners are off enjoying somewhere else’s sunshine. Then we descended to lower levels where the air is less rarefied and more suitable for mere mortals to breathe, muddled along Main Road, pottered along the promenade and went to gaze at the lone swimmer doing lengths in the Pavilion swimming pool, where the temperature was advertised at 13C today, one degree warmer than the ocean. Everyone I'd previously spoken to about Seapoint had told me that it’s got the best weather and is much less windy than the City Bowl. Well today was the day that proved the exception to the rule. The wind was blowing in earnest, palm trees having a bad hair day, but the sun was shining and those veteran die-hard swimmers aren’t deterred by such considerations as comfort.

Seapoint Pavilion - salt water pools with the ocean behind
By then after so much leisurely and pleasurable dawdling, school pick up time was nagging at our thoughts. Far from our West Coast stomping grounds with dog food to buy, petrol to put in and three kids to collect, we relinquished the urban vibe, calculated that our whole farm with four houses on it would probably not even buy us a two bedroom flat here and pointed the car to Melkbos.

And as this was a day of being a food writer and food trucks are one of the current Cape Town food happenings not to be ignored, we patronised our I love Melkies food truck for the first time for a late lunch (I was slightly jittery on caffeine and chocolate by this time) and had a very enjoyable toasted bagel with scrambled egg and red onion for me and a real proper hot dog for him with red onion, gherkins and sweet chilli sauce. Definitely a good street food experience to be repeated.

I Love Melkies food truck in Melkbosstrand

Now I’ve got enough notes to write my Seapoint article, an almost written review and a whole blog post out of my day, I feel energised and well fed both physically and mentally, and it was great having my husband along for the adventure too, all thanks to the postponed client meeting. Here's to many more research trips with him along as driver and co-ordinator!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Our Winter Festival Over the Years

Christmas in summer still doesn’t feel quite right for me, even though my kids have grown up with it. Sunshine, salads and a cold lunch are quite normal for them, though they always prefer it when it’s cool enough for roast potatoes to go with the turkey. So when we first got here we came up with the idea of cramming some of those wonderful winter traditions from my English childhood, sparklers and bonfires on Guy Fawkes night, mulled wine and lanterns at Christmas, into one big celebration of winter.

That first festival back in 2002 revolved around making lanterns and carrying them on sticks in a procession to create our circle (the circle that is now the centre of all our festivals). We then came back down the hill to light a huge bonfire and drank mulled wine. I think we had sparklers that time, if not then certainly by the next winter they had been added to the essential ingredients list, along with soups and boerewors rolls and an avenue of lights made from tea light candles in brown paper bags.

When the kids were smaller the most exciting thing about the evening was being able to run around outside in the dark, while the adults stood around the bonfire warming hands on mugs of mulled wine. Now the older ones have graduated to sitting around the fire watching sparks fly, though nobody has quite got too old for a sparkler or two, and licensed pyromania retains its allure.

Our festival a couple of weeks ago heralded the winter holidays and was a really lovely one. We had new friends join us and the kids did most of the preparation work themselves, with teams  decorating the archway,  filling bags with sand for the candlelit pathway and the boys building the bonfire. The Malawian couple who live on the farm joined us for the first time, intrigued by the whole idea, as in the days leading up to the festival Simon had been working on clearing some of the restios that were gradually overgrowing the sandpit.

Lanterns lit and ready for the procession to the circle

 The chilly wind died down while we were busy making lanterns inside and by the time the sun had gone and we were lighting the lanterns it was almost warm and completely still, the moon well up and the Venus Jupiter conjunction bright in the night sky. It really was magical as we sat in the circle, read our blessings and the vision prayer and coaxed the kids into singing.

Then a few of us rushed to the house to bring the soups and mulled wine out, others put a match to the bonfire and the men started braaiing the sausages around a smaller fire. We had a fine array of soups from butternut to lentil, chicken to beef and barley, as well as a bean stew. Two huge plaited loaves disappeared without any trouble and there were still boeri rolls for those with any room left. We were all loath to leave the fire so it was late before we eventually moved indoors for puddings, some of the littlest having already fallen asleep on the sofa inside, though signs of life returned once the scent of pudding was in the air.

Look for the Venus Jupiter conjunction just over our heads.

Licensed pyromania

Altogether a wonderful festival leaving us all feeling re-connected, to the turn of the seasons, to the earth and to each other.

Read more about our winter festival and building the bonfire