Monday, 6 February 2012

Summer nights

I've always loved Summer. Dazzling sunny days and warm, sultry nights. We eat on the stoep most evenings with paraffin lanterns dotted about in the trees creating a festive, holiday atmosphere. I love the fact that even while wearing short dresses with shoe string straps, and flip flops, I don't feel chilly. The weather is urging us to unwind a little. Our energy for anything other than enjoyment is very much on the wane.
At the moment however, the Karoo heat has become overpowering. There is a hot, searing wind that whips up the dust until it seems to invade every pore of my being. The air is so dry that my eyes burn, and tears well up with every scratchy blink. The scorching sun makes walking out doors unbearable.
 Feeling stifled and claustrophobic, I open the bedroom windows that have been closed all day to keep the heat out.  I'm longing for the cool night air to waft in. It doesn't. The usually crisp white linen, feels warm. I flip my pillow over to find the cool side. Jack asks me if I've turned on the electric blanket by mistake. It certainly feels like it. The heat forces us to lie apart. There will be no spooning tonight.  We  spread out using every inch of the extra long king. In desperation, I cover my sweaty body with a wet sarong. Aah, instant relief.
The next evening we opt for a change. Taking out the camping mattresses we fling them on the front lawn. We each grab a pillow and a sheet . Tonight we're sleeping under the stars. We lie  in a row alongside each other. Papa's in the middle, with Anna and  I on each side.  Anna argues that she wants to sleep next to Mama. However,  Papa says he can't sleep unless he's next to Mama, and  as for Mama, well, she gets claustrophobic, so unfortunately she can't sleep in the middle. Having  come to terms with these logistics my child and my husband fall happily, and instantly asleep.
The Dogs think it's heaven and immediately opt to share my mattress.  I kick them off and put their doggy beds next to me. The Ridgeback feels protective and leaving his bed he comes and lies on the lawn next to me with his fury muzzle and wet nose, a little too close to my ear for comfort. Feeling very loved I decide to let him stay.
 There's a full moon and I lie awake for hours watching the night garden taking shape around me. The two  Pepper trees  dominate; silent giants standing guard over us. I wonder briefly about previous generations that have lain here on hot summer's nights  in the shadows of these very same trees, under the same starry sky. It's a strangely comforting feeling.  With these sentimental thoughts in my mind I give thanks to God, for the resilience of the Boere  who came to this harsh and unforgiving place and turned it into something beautiful, against all the odds. Oupa en Ouma Grooitjie. I salute you.

"Women and cats do exactly what they want , and men and dogs must get used to it"

It's 6 am.  In my semi conscious, drowsy state I can hear Milly meowing at the window. I know it's her because she's the only cat we have that does this. It's pointless trying to ignore her. She's got time and patience on her side and she'll persist relentlessly until I stumble blindly to the bathroom window, lift the fly screen, and let her in. She knows there's a window in the kitchen that's left open especially for the cats. However, being a cat, making life easier for me is not on her agenda.
Once in, you'd expect her to quieten down, but no; she's celebrating her victory and wants everybody to realize she's arrived.  She walks around for a couple of minutes mewing and doing "the cat rub" on the bedroom furniture.
Finally she springs onto the bed, and purring loudly she begins to knead the bedding and claw the white linen. Ouch! That completed, she commences her cleaning routine. Gracefully,(cats know no other way) she straightens her back legs, and one at a time she extends them in the air at ninety degrees behind her head, like some bizarre yoga pose. She does this while delicately, but noisily licking her bottom.
I nude her with my foot. "No Milly, do your ablutions somewhere else. This is my bed".  Not in the least offended, she starts making love to my foot. She nuzzles it and licks my sole with her rough little tongue. She nibbles on my toes and when I squirm she holds my foot still by extending her claws; not deeply enough to draw blood, but firmly enough to stop me moving. Double ouch!
Any hopes I had of falling back to sleep are now shattered.  The real reason for all this attention is simple. Milly wants breakfast. She has me well trained.  Obediently I get out of bed, shove my feet into my slippers and traipse off to the kitchen with Milly, tail straight up, leading the way.  I'd like to think of it as a win, win situation.  After all, I do this because Milly brings me so much joy? No? Given the choice between an alarm clock and a meowing cat, I guess I'd pick the cat. One thing I am sure of is this: You've gotta love cats! They give you no choice!

Monday, 5 December 2011

High heels

It's generally believed that a man going through his mid-life-crisis dyes his hair black, buys a flashy sports car, and trades in his wife of 20 years for a younger model. What does it mean when a forty-five year old woman who's only ever worn comfy flatties, gets a rush of blood to the head and buys herself not one, but 2 pairs of high heel  shoes on the same day?
I live on a farm where the rocky, uneaven terrain dictates that  a woman must wear practical flat shoes in order not to kill herself. Most of the time I wear crocs, or slops. Flat, strappy sandals are for special occasions. Recently this changed.
On  our brief trips to Cape Town my husband usually keeps a beady eye on me, and never lets me loose alone in a shopping mall. Today however he needs to look at vehicles, as our bakkie is starting to blow smoke from the engine and we need to trade it in. (For a younger model.) He has no choice. Shopping for a car is a man's job, and he can't be hindered by a woman tagging along. He drops me at the mall. Not just any mall. The V and A Waterfront. You must understand that for a woman who lives in the Karoo, where the only source of retail therapy is Pep Stores, the Waterfront is nothing short of heaven.
I  head for the shoe department to find a new pair of sensible sandals for summer. I'm spoilt for choice. I'm baffled by the vast range and begin the process of trying on, and rejecting shoes.  Twenty something pairs later the joy of shoe shopping is starting to wear a little thin. I finally find a pair that's both flattering and comfortable. Feeling a little overwhelmed, and desperately in need of a cup of coffee, I head to the counter to pay.
Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I spy a funky pair of shoes with the most indecently high heels I've ever seen.  The pair I'm holding look so boring and fuddy dud in comparison. Let me just try them on for fun! Gosh! They look magnificent.  I feel chic and glamorous. In a moment of daring I decide to buy them as well . Before I can change my mind I head for the till again.  Just ahead of me I spot yet another pair of  gorgeous  heels. I try them on. WOW! Stunning!  I can't justify buying three pairs of shoes. I'm a Karoo farmer's wife for crying out loud. When do I ever get the chance to wear high heels? The blood is rushing to my head. I ditch the sensible flatties, and  with my head down, I make a dash for the counter. This time I make it. I pay an exorbitant amount of money for two of the most fashionably stylish and exceedingly impractical pairs of shoes I'll ever own.
I feel bold and extravagant, and  yes; sexy. For a brief moment I also feel foolish and guilty, but I banish those thoughts.   I am not a boring Karoo Tannie.  I am a mature woman, in her prime. I am fulfilled and confident.  Interested and interesting, and even if I can barely walk in them, I am the proud owner of two ridiculously high pairs of shoes.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Karlien en Mariana

Lukas 6:38, eenvoudig, geen verdere verduideliking nodig nie. Ons glo daarin en verstaan die beginsel.  Ons gee nooit regtig sonder om mildelik te ontvang nie. Ons kry gewoonlik meer uit die lewe as wat ons gee, tog hou ons nie altyd by die reёls nie. Hoekom nie? Om weereens te sien of Die Boek reg  is?  Dit is, ons weet, maar ons toets oor en oor en word weer en weer herinner; Gee, en jy sal ontvang, in goeie maat. "Ingestamp,geskud en propvol sal julle in julle hande kry"
Karlien en Mariana, 'n geskenk van iemand vir wie ek nooit gegge het nie. Presies wat ek op die spesifieke tydstip nodig gehad het.   Ons nuwe kaas besigheid 'n noodsaaklike hupstooitjie gegee. Twee pragtige Jersey verse vernoem na twee statige dames van die Overberg. Nogal baie in gemeen, die vier meisies. Asof dit nie genoeg was nie, kry Karlien en Mariana 'n geleendheid Karoo toe ook.  
Ek wil graag by die reëls bly! Ek weet en verstaan wat die gevolge kan bring. Help my Jesus.
Dankie oom Cyril, dankie John, dankie Kootjie. Mag julle glase altyd oorloop. Baas Jack

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Pear shaped tomato

We've been watching it for ages.  Our first tomato of the season. It glows like a flare. A cherry tomato  blushing bright red on a bunch amid the green ones. It's so utterly tempting.  A forbidden fruit. I imagine slipping it whole into my mouth and running my tongue over the smooth, firm skin. I want to bite on it slowly until it bursts in my mouth releasing  the sweet, piquant, juice that tastes of summer. A bit over the top? Definitely, but any of you who have ever eaten a perfectly ripe cherry tomato, plucked straight from the bush will know exactly what I'm talking about.
Anna asks me every day. "Can we eat it yet?" We've made a pact the two of us. When it's deep crimson,  fully ripened by the sun, we are going to share the first tomato. After that the tomatoes will all ripen in quick succession. There will be so many. We will gorge on them, and they will become boring in their abundance. But the first one is special.
"Look Mama, It's ripe, we can eat it today."  Reverently she picks it. She brings it to me, a gleeful smile on her face. " You have the first bite, " she offers.  I have a mother's sacrificial heart. "It's  okay sweetheart, you can have it all. I'll have the next one."
 She insists, so I take the first bite. It's as delicious as anticipated. Anna doesn't take her eyes off that tomato for a second. She can hardly wait  and her hand is poised ready to snatch it away should I take more than my share.  I hand it back to her. She's about to pop the remains into her mouth when she pauses. There are three of us in our family, not just two. Papa must also have a bite. A cherry tomato shared three ways? I smile to myself at the seriousness of the ceremony.
She calls out to her Dad. He's in the bathroom brushing his teeth. "Here Papa, have a bite, it's our first tomato, have a taste."  Sadly the moment is way over Papa's head. He refuses, saying he's just brushed his teeth, it'll taste awful.  "Please Papa, just one bite." I hear the frantic earnestness in her voice. He's irritated. "No Anna. Next time."
Oh dear. Now they are both cross. "Fine!" Anna storms out of the bathroom, green eyes flashing.  In a fit of temper she tosses the half eaten tomato out of the window. I'm the only one who's had a taste.
The gravity of what she's done hits her and she starts to cry. The tomato is ruined. Her Dad didn't want any. She never tasted any, and her perfect life is over. How did things go so pear shaped?

Friday, 18 November 2011

Dancing in the moonlight

It's been a good day at Langbaken. According to the wise King Solomon, there is nothing better under the sun, than for man to eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour. (Eccl 2;24) It is the gift of God.(Eccl 3;13)
We are relaxing in the satisfaction that our busy day has been fruitful. It's yet another beautiful evening and we're enjoying our customary sundowner on the front lawn. We're celebrating life. The doors and windows of the house are open in order for us to hear the music better. Albert Hammond is belting out, "Hang on to your hat! New York city here I come."
 Anna is dancing on the roof of the bakkie, and every time she hears the chorus she slides down the windscreen ,singing along, "Whee-ee-ee! New York city here I come!" For a moment I consider joining her, then I realise I'll probably dent the roof of the bakkie. Instead I hop on the bench. I dance like there's no one watching. Thank goodness there isn't.
Jack  puts down his G 'n T. He lift's Anna off the bonnet, and waltzes her around the lawn. She screeches with delight, calling for me to join them. We form a huddle as we sway around the garden together in time to the music. What a party we're having...Just the three of us.

The Hatchlings

Every now and then the Lord presents us with an out of the ordinary gift that makes us marvel anew at his wonderful creation.
The Karoo has a harsh, arid climate and yet I'm always blown away by the miracle of life, and the variety of creatures that make their homes in this stark land. Steenbok, aardvark, porcupines, meerkat, and dassies to name a few of the more common species. Beauty in the Karoo is more than skin deep. It's subtle and restrained. For this reason it's extra special. Vivid pink flowers growing on a dry thorn bush for example, dazzle us with their brilliance, and the ashy colour of Bosman grass shimmers like molten silver in the scorching sun. It 's an austere beauty that touches your soul, drawing you ever nearer to the creator.
On the next door farm there is a Kraans where pair of Black Eagles have been nesting for years. Every Summer we risk our lives leaning over the edge of the cliff to see the two baby chicks. There are always two, but only one survives. I've heard that the stronger chick eats it's weaker sibling. In nature nothing is wasted.
It was Sunday morning and we all had that lazy feeling one feels entitled to on a Sunday. By 9.00 am Anna and I were still lying in the big bed enjoying our morning cuddle, along with coffee and Milo. An hour later Jack insisted we get out of our pyjamas and come with him for a ride on the motorbike. He had something he wanted to show us.  Curiosity got the better of us, and dragging our heals a little we dressed and gathered the necessary sunglasses, caps and jackets for the ride.
Jack took us to Daintjie's Suiwer which is one of the  sheep camps on the farm. There at the top of a windmill was a large bird's nest, roughly constructed out of sticks. We climbed the ladder to have a peep and Oh what a precious sight. Four, baby raptor hatchlings snuggled together. What a privilege to see them so closely. They're  "adobarel," Anna commented with awe in her voice. And it was awesome. Our own little miracle. At that moment I felt as close to God, as I'll ever feel on this earth. God is Great, and I love it when he reveals his Greatness in little things.  Madam Brattex