Love is God

by Penny M 

It is too late to establish boundaries when your child has drowned in the pool; your teenager has signed up to the wrong crowd, or become a parent too early.

Principals used to be handed down from elders to their young.  In an age when discipline was understood as love and not abuse, children had nothing to fear and no reason to argue. Those were the days when experience truly was the best teacher.

But, of what use is your experience when your children are learning from somebody else’s?

Mother’s voice drowned somewhere between the bra burning sixties and the death of Princess Dianna.

I remember the introduction of TV brought with it a bevy of warnings. Traditions were overpowered by the quest for visual communication and learning. The box with a glass window spawned surrogate role models and unleashed sinful fantasies. Wholesome parents limited viewing and lost the loyalty of boundary pushers.  One-minute-wonder moms earned their stardom by hosting after-school attractions at the switch of a button. Not to mention Daddy’s little number on the side.

Cowboys and Indians became far less painful when you could virtually shoot somebody and turn off the aftermath. Suddenly smoking was relaxing and it wasn’t anything to do with sitting around the family camp fire telling stories of how Grandpa rescued Granny from the Indian down the road.

When I was at school, we used to play ‘Mummies and Daddies’ in a roofless house of hardboard walls and glass-less windows.  We were allowed to pull the miniature curtains and have cosy tea parties with plastic cups and saucers. Teacher was God and checked us out from above, privy to every experiment or conversation. How does that compare to Days of our Lives?  Is there anybody watching?

Family values became picket fences of derision.  Prudes and nerds went to the top of the class for boredom whilst the cool and loose hit all-time highs on the social scale.  Dianna comics and Lego-land couldn’t compete with the Barbie-Ken love affair. The foundations of sanity shook beneath digital dictates of what true love is. Media magnates found financial security whilst their students wobbled into the real world and wondered why they needed to work for theirs.

But what of the fundamentals? How do you reassure a seven year old that daddy really won’t leave home before him?  That it is more important to be the kindest than the best.  That sexy isn’t a compliment, but an invitation you don’t want to make in your teens.  Mother’s love used to be unconditional, not squeezed between coffee with the girls after gym and the TV soapie before supper.

So, when children are allowed to go bungee-jumping with principles, you may as well put their security on the market.  They will follow every whim and ‘love’ will be their god. If they don’t drown in the neighbour’s pool, they’ll play house with an addict or mommies and daddies for real.

I applaud those boundary builders who are prepared to sacrifice their popularity for the true freedom of their children.  Society will benefit from the stability they offer and find security in their love. The reward of good parenting is when children open the gate on the world and put up their own fences.


A Night at the Bolshoi, in Durban

By Sue Trollip

A few years ago I was quaffing a bottle of merlot, in Paris (as you do) with a friend from junior school. That day we’d walked along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, visited the Arc de Triomphe, marvelled at the delights of the Louvre and lost our breath at the top of the Eiffel Tower and were now sitting on the edge of the bathtub, our jeans rolled up to our knees, soothing our blistered feet in cold water.

‘Suze,’ she said, ‘when we were in class one Mrs Quinn told us to paint a picture of what we wanted to be when we grew up. I painted a teacher and I became a teacher. You painted a ballerina. What happened?’

We collapsed with laughter causing tidal waves in the bathtub as we kicked our feet then we refilled our wineglasses and moved on to discuss the many attributes of Bon Jovi, who was at the time plastered all over the Paris metro stations.

I laugh every time I think about that. I went to ballet lessons for a term when I was about ten. I enjoyed myself too, but  even then I knew I lacked co-ords. I still need to think a beat before knowing my left from my right and grace and poise are not words that spring to mind when my name is mentioned. I have no idea what made me paint a ballerina. Perhaps I liPictureked the pink paint and couldn’t think of any other profession that required a pink outfit. Maybe it was the ABBA song about the pretty ballerina being the ‘queen of the dancing floor’. Or most likely I’d just read a book about a ballerina. I had a tendency to want to be a detective whilst reading the Nancy Drew series, and wanting to be a nurse while reading about Sue Barton. I was never concerned about being a detective who’s afraid of the dark, or a nurse who really, really doesn’t like blood.

A few Wednesday mornings ago, I discovered that the Russian ballet was in town for one more night and I rushed to Computicket. I know about the Bolshoi, simply because I like to travel and Russia is an exotic destination I have not yet visited. So that night I dressed in my finest and descended on the Playhouse with lots of chocolate.

I know nothing about ballet except for a few random words. I had no idea what to expect and I never for one moment considered a transformation. The audience were noisy until the lights died. There wasn’t a murmur after that as the spotlight hovered over the heap of bodies lying on  centre stage. With featherlike grace the bodies rose and floated across the stage.

I recognised snippets from Romeo & Juliette and Swan Lake, everything else was mind boggling in my ignorance.

By intermission my toes were aching from all that pointe work and I imagined for a moment the torture those dancers endured each rehearsal. Ballerina is not a job for someone without an unstinting passion for ballet. It’s not a future for someone who prefers to sit at a laptop with a mug of coffee and a snack, or five.

I hadn’t noticed the tingling protestation of my legs until intermission and then their angst multiplied at having been folded into such a small space high up in the rafters of the Playhouse. When the lights came up they demanded I move so I roused myself to stand in Smith Street (or is that Anton Lembede Street?) and survey the stomping of the real world.

The second half was as enchanting, with dizzying rond de jambe and pas de poisson and grand jeté moves that made my heart soar along to Tchaikovsky’s violins.

But, as with all good things, the floodlights eventually illuminated the stage and turned the dancers back into human beings.

I’d been taken to a surreal world and it seemed harsh to have to now find my car on the eleventh floor of the Royal Hotel parking lot and drive the mean streets home. It was only when I reached into my bag for my car keys that I discovered the chocolate.

I didn’t eat as I drove, instead I revelled in the slither of adrenaline floating in my veins and hoped the glow wouldn’t disappear too soon.

Picture courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti –

Chocolate Brownie Vindaloo

by Betty

‘Hey guys, have you heard about the new curry house in town?’

The question vibrated, echoed and blew through the streets on a north-west gale, Cape style. And it wasn’t even part of the Whale Crier’s portfolio of blasts and pointings.  It wouldn’t have fitted his kelp-horn repertoire.  So everyone was a tad confused.  Same W- C patrolled the waterfront area, home to a vast array of eateries and shops, and there definitely was no sign of a new curry house, nor did he have any intel on the subject.  No question, Hermanus needed an establishment of this nature to keep out the Antarctic  blasts. But where was it?

So, where do you go when in doubt, and the info office is closed, again, due to flooding?

The Library – of course.  And there, on a cold and rainy Friday, The Bhuki Cafe reveals itself in all its warm and chocolaty glory. This is the new curry house, the vindaloo of library friendship, sans  curry.  But what takes its place is an experience so full of happiness, creativity, exchange of views and new meetings, that  people just keep coming.

Turn left at the entrancPicturee and there are tables of crafters with their handwork for sale; to the right – more craft tables, a local bookshop with a display of new and bargain books, and the lovely coffee-chocolate-scone-and-sandwich-scented buzz of The Bhuki.  Maybe there’s a guest artist, writer, publisher, antique dealer as Guest of the Month to chat to, or just meet friends. It’s hugely popular and helps The Friends of the Library buy a regular supply of new books each month, books which stay with us and don’t go into the provincial sausage machine.

This week’s guests hailed from the tiny hamlet of Baardskeerdersbos which is near Wolvengat which is near Wortelgat which is near…well, it’s a wonderful area to live, names and all!

I love what we do, who we meet and how we manage various outreach projects to encourage literacy in schools and generally, with the unstinting support of our librarians, keep our library as one of the best.

Next week I shall suggest a change of fare to our intrepid volunteer home-bakers : Cheese scones with Nando’s Hottest topping or Chocolate Brownies Vindaloo. Maybe. And then take extended leave!

Photo courtesy of © stuart miles

Cottages In The Air


By Susan Roberts
In a rare moment of forethought about seven years ago, I bought a piece of land in the Drakensberg. Okay, that sounds grand, but let me explain: it’s a steeply sloping square on the side of a hill, in a complex in which there is a huge, impressive gatehouse, a fenced boundary, regularly burnt firebreaks around the perimeter, plenty of theoretical rules about architectural styles, and not a single dwelling.

Why did I buy it, I hear you ask. Apart from the price (which was about half what I would have expected), the biggest attraction was that there were no time limits in which to start building. Consequently there are now twelve owners all figuratively sitting on their windblown nest eggs, waiting for someone else to lay the first brick so that the rest of our property values can skyrocket. That way, if we don’t build, we can at least sell them for triple what we paid…

Dream on, Susan!

I used to have a small flat in Johannesburg which I sold when I moved back to Durban thirteen years ago. Well, I moved thirteen years ago, but the flat was on the market for another two before I found a buyer to take it off my hands – for less than what I had paid. Within a few months of my celebrating the sale, property values in that area doubled, then tripled and I have been kicking myself ever since. Thus I could never quite afford to buy an equivalent place in Durban.

Around the time that I arrived in Durban, I began to take regular breaks in the Drakensberg. Renting different cottages for short getaways led, in time, to fantasies about one day having my own cottage there. As with all fantasies, they tend to remain just beyond what is attainable, but there’s no harm in dreaming. Everyone needs a castle… er… cottage in the air, a little piece of Cloudcuckooland for those times when the real world treats you less than kindly.

My friends and I stayed in beautiful cottages. Our favourite was stuffed with Oregon furniture and stacked to the thatch with books. It had a fantastic fireplace against an inside wall, which warmed the bedroom on the other side. Built at the end of a short farm drive, with a view across a small  lake, and a river gurgling out of sight nearby, it was the ultimate fantasy cottage in the Berg.

And then the owner sold it without telling anyone!

So that’s when I bought my little plot of dirt and grass – so that I could custom-build my own cottage and no one could take it away from me. I had to sign an agreement to work within the architectural guidelines, and the list is endless: single-storey; wide veranda; roof that slopes enough to allow the snow to fall off, but is not allowed to be too steep or high; and definitely no thatch.

All houses must be painted in muted colours which don’t jar against the natural colouring of the surrounding landscape. The building style is not allowed to be ostentatious in any way. This includes a ban on log cabins, Spanish plaster, Mexican Adobe, Dutch gables, Bollywood Bling, Victorian wrought iron and any broekie-lace finishes. In other words, all must be simple and in basic settler style.

Settler? Ooh, nasty word, that. Not very PC, and just a bit ambiguous too. Take Pietermaritzburg, for example, where Settler = Victorian. The reason there is so much Victorian wrought iron and broekie-lace there is because that’s what the nasty, hated colonials added to their new homes when they built them, to remind them of the homes they had left in England. In the case of the poorer Byrne and Willowfountain settlers (who moved into Pietermaritzburg when their farms failed) it served as a reminder of the castles in the air back home that they could never afford, so they fantasised about building something similar when they might one day have their own places…

Oh dear – rather like I’m doing now. And since I’m a descendant of one of those struggling Willowfountain settlers, how fitting it is that I don’t have the money for all those extraneous finishes either.

So what will my Berg cottage be like? Based on my current data collection, this is what I have so far. I plan on starting with a thick-walled, single room structure covered by an insulated roof that will be supported by pillars. Rooms will be delineated by trellis screens, curtains, stained glass panels and other hangings; in fact, anything that I can find to drape which will save me the price of a brick wall and another door. If there’s one thing I can do after a lifetime spent in the theatre, it’s drape. Give me a bolt of pongee lining and watch me go!

My fireplace will be in the centre of the house with the living area on one side and the single bedroom on the other. The only solid inside walls will be around the fireplace because pongee lining flapping next to a fire is just asking for trouble…

Other things I have learnt the hard way: thin metal-framed windows don’t fit so well between rustic walls – a little gust of wind and all the windows start to rattle and whistle as the freezing night air belts through the gaps around them. Consequently my cottage will have double glazed windows –  like houses in cold countries are supposed to have. All plumbing will be centred in one area so the heated water doesn’t have far to travel, and all exposed water pipes will be heavily insulated.

Electricity will no doubt be too expensive by the time I build, so all energy will have to be provided by solar power or gas. I’ll probably need some kind of generator for my laptop because the battery doesn’t last longer than five minutes when the power goes off. Oh yeah, and for cooking and light too. Might need those while I’m writing…

On second thoughts, with all this insulation needed, why don’t I just build an underground bunker and live there? The architectural guidelines don’t forbid the inclusion of a cellar, although I’m not sure they mean it to be the only structure. Or I could just stay in Durban where it’s warm, and get ready to move into my sister’s spare room in Australia. They have central heating…

Anything can happen. I did say this was a fantasy, didn’t I?

Photo: Suat Eman –