by Jacqueline Dowling

Yes, OK, I know I’m always hacking on about our library; the way I see it is that Library = Books = Writers = Orders. Ergo, the more interest we generate in the contents of our shelves, the more scope there will be for writers.

Having got that out of the way, what must follow is a small trumpet blast. Not only were we voted 2nd in the Arts and Culture Award of Excellence last year, but we are the first library in the Western Cape to have Good Morning Mr Mandela on our shelves within days of release – in both English and Afrikaans. And that’s just for starters.

Photo: Grant Cochran - www.freedigitalphotos.net

Photo: Grant Cochran – http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

Friday last was Friends of the Library’s winter pancake day. Shock and horror echoed throughout the municipal offices when they heard that the excellent product would now cost R5. Well, there was a bit of a hooha but we held our ground , mixed batter for 300 pancakes and waited for the orders to come in. And they did. We took R1 000 in sales and there wasn’t a teaspoon of batter left at the end of service. ‘Upstairs’ managed to get over their miffs and ordered 108, the police popped over for a boxful and the public had difficulty getting past my table which screamed PANCAKES R5 in loud letters, right in the entrance. At one stage I thought I’d better ask for a strong-arm to guard the money box! So we’ve decided to go for a second round in July, hopefully on another cold, wet day. This time we’ll make batter for 500 and see what orders come in. So many ingredients are contributed by volunteers and well-wishers, that the balance after costs will buy at least five new books. Orders orders orders.

Talking of which, an English member arrived with a suitcase full of end of lines from Bungay Press in East Anglia, with their good wishes. Hemel en See Publishers, a local company donated a generous helping of their end of lines last week and, our lovely local bookshops hand on their publishers’ advance copies ‘not for sale’, Orders only. So I don’t really mind hacking on about a subject very close to my heart – books, words, writing, reading.

Later this year, maybe, our book of recipes of yesteryear, a bit of nostalgia, may see the light of day; because…a new member, a retired foodie journalist has shown interest in the project, which is very encouraging. All going well, we will raise more funds for books from the sales.

Lastly, also on the subject of Orders, although a bit remote from the library as it happens: the young designer of the McDonalds Fry Box artwork for the 2014 Soccer World Cup, is coming to live locally and is busy working on our next set of bookmarks .

Things are definitely looking up: next Friday is…pancake day and we’re making 500. Imagine, half a thousand pancakes, half a thousand spoons of cinnamon sugar, half a thousand lemon slices, half a thousand take-away containers. Half a thousand new books? Probably not, but who’s counting!

Salt or Wisdom?

by Penny M

When the tea looks like cat’s pea, my favourite Oaties have lined my stomach and I’ve finished gazing at my view of the Indian Ocean, it’s time to write; or is it?

I still feel like I’ve switched planets. I am determined not to become a pillar of salt. I have no desire to return to the other galaxy, but today must be weighed against yesterday to measure my progress.

What a privilege it is to be able to watch live broadcasting. This week, a former president appeared before the Arms Procurement Commission which was created to investigate allegations of fraud, corruption, impropriety or irregularity in the Strategic Defence Procurement Packages, specifically the multi-billions spent in 1999 (that’s fifteen years ago).

It was a virtual chance for me to sit in the judge’s seat. My lounge chair is much more comfortable; I can lean back on it and it won’t give way beneath me. I almost offered it to the respondent whose confidence in his Chair seemed to be under threat.

I felt for him. Had his team at the time (the Committee engaged to consider procurement of arms) done their homework properly? Whether they had or not, he was doing lines for them. Reports of fraudulent activities and misinformation were coming to light apparently for the first time. Just as most of us when confronted with such revelations, the former president demanded evidence and facts. There’s a certain irony there; we’re all on the same side, just not in the same seats. The crux of the matter is whether or not we can trust in the support of our chairs.

In addition to my TV viewing, radio has become a new distraction.

SAFM Morning Live is a program worthy of addiction. Interviews of interesting people, who answer a barrage of listeners’ questions on subjects like morality, religion, dealing with problem teens, art, story etcetera, go down well with a couple of cuppas.

That’s why I’m glad I switched planets. I can choose to spend my time expanding my knowledge of the world or to sneak a peek at the sea. As for my progress with projects that earn money, I guess it’s about as fast as it took the Commission of Inquiry to get around to cross-examining the former president.

I’m building a pillar of wisdom, not salt. That takes time …

No to a ticky tacky life

By Sue Trollip

I’ve been watching a lot TV. Netflix. It’s free movies and TV shows for a nominal monthly fee. Fantastic! (You could argue that the nominal fee makes the free part inaccurate but I disagree, it’s almost free and that’s good enough for me.)

Weeds is where I started. It’s an oldish show, but I’ve never seen it before. Series One is all I needed because I’m not really enthralled by the family drug business. What I loved most about this series was the theme tune. Little Boxes it’s that 1960s song we’ve all heard before by Malvina Reynolds:

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes all the same.

And the people in the houses

And they all look just the same.

And it got me thinking, then worrying about how to make sure I’m not living a ‘ticky tacky’ life, a life that’s ‘just the same’.

Then I turned to a series called Life. I tuned in because it has Damien Lewis in the lead and although he’s not handsome, what with being a red-haired dude and all, he is an excellent actor (see The Forsyth Saga et al) and he has a lovely mouth. Kind. Anyway, his character in Life, Detective Charlie Crews, said that every day should be a celebration, and I like that idea. (Charlie Crews had just been released from a 12 year prison sentence so he needed to celebrate in all ways.)

I hope that if I celebrate each day individually it will make my life more substantial and less ‘ticky tacky’. Now there’s celebrating with chips and salsa, or ice cream, or even margaritas but I’m not talking about that kind of celebration.

I’m suggesting a20140715_090300 few minutes to stare at the moon, or to watch the wind dancing with the leaves on the trees, or the sight of a dandelion shimmying in the late afternoon sunshine.

So this is a reminder to appreciate what’s around you.

Dare to live differently!




Attention, Writers: The Next Blogging U. Challenge Is Here

The WordPress.com Blog

Last month, more than 4,000 bloggers joined us for Writing 101: Building a Blogging Habit, where they challenged themselves to carve out time to write regularly, and to experiment with new forms and styles. The result? Thousands of posts, comments, and follows, and countless new friendships.

We’re excited to announce Blogging U.’s next offering, which begins next Monday, July 21st. Writing 201: Finding Your Story will invite participants to take their craft to the next level by focusing on more advanced storytelling and self-editing tools, from finding the right angle from which to narrate your story, to coming up with strong opening sentences.

Good writing is essentially rewriting.

— Roald Dahl

Writing 201 is a self-directed course on the art of revision: four weeks dedicated to self-editing and rewriting, looking at our work with a magnifying glass, and improving it. If you have existing posts that you’d like to work on, expand, or refocus, whether as a…

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Will you walk a little faster …

Courtesy of Serge Bertasius (freedigitalphotos.net)

Courtesy of Serge Bertasius (freedigitalphotos.net)

By Jacqueline Dowling

‘Said the whiting to the snail; there’s a lobster close behind me and he’s treading on my tail.’ At least, I think it was a lobster. On reading this delightful poem to our grandson recently, a blog popped up – not about lobsters, but their smaller cousins, the shy and hideously overpriced crayfish.

Crayfish, in the event of a red tide, leave the sea and scramble onto the beach in search of oxygen: Fact.

Crayfish, in the event of an oversupply of carbon monoxide, leave their place of confinement in search of oxygen: Fact.

Here’s how it works. Along the Cape’s southern coast, there’s a lucrative and highly illegal chain of crayfish and abalone poaching. All you need is darkness, a boat, preferably of the ski variety, a long length of hosepipe, one compressor, a couple of spades and underwater torches, rope and sacks, a diver and two mates back on deck.

Climb into wetsuit, attach spades, torches and weight belt to same, put one end of the hosepipe in mouth, and fall backwards into the water. At which stage the compressor roars into life, assuring the diver of life everlasting – for the time being anyway. Diligent use of the spade ensures a good haul of abalone, chop chop. Two sacks later our poacher is back on deck and they’re laughing all the way to the bank. Which is all very well, except for the fact that the ill gotten gains more often than not, are used to make large drug purchases. And the problem doesn’t stop with abalone, nor do the drugs. Crayfish are equally lucrative, but less easy to transport since they can’t be shucked, and vigilant Fisheries officers make life as difficult as possible for the poachers.

There’s limited road access to our coastal town. You can drive through it, with only one turnoff up the valley, or take the rough road behind our house, which links up with the main road anyway. This makes crayfish courier-ing a risky occupation. The crays are usually packed into the boot of a car, hence the carbon-monoxide problem, and the courier puts foot and hopes there are no road blocks en route. And this is how the Crayfish Marathon came about.

On the way into town, a red banger screamed up behind me, revved furiously, hooting to get past. The windows were covered in dark film and the exhaust poured out a volume of black smoke which would have put Beijing’s air problems to shame. I pulled back a little, only to have two G registration cars and a police van overtake me. So I parked up under a tree and waited for the next happening. Didn’t have to wait long. Red banger overshot a large and lethal middelmannetjie outside the school, levitated to an alarming height, boot flew open and dozens of crayfish, of all shapes and sizes, shot out into the road and ran like the clappers away from the traffic. I didn’t stay to watch the next episode, but it was very funny indeed. Or would have been if the implications hadn’t been so serious.

I wonder whether the lobster ever caught up with the whiting and the snail?

Postscript: It was, after all, a walrus, not a lobster – call it licence if you will, but a walrus wouldn’t have suited the story at all, nor would it have fitted into the boot of a car.

Thirty Years of Bad Timing… or… Looking for Mr Right

By Susan Roberts

Last week when I wished my niece a Happy 30th Birthday, my mind wandered back to what I had been doing with my own life around the time when she was born. I was younger then than she is now, and was starting to get serious with my first major boyfriend. Let’s call him Mr Right. Back in 1984, for the first time in our two and a half years together, Mr Right had recently mentioned the “M” word.

It was a casual reference, of course. It went something like this: “Well, if we get married one day…” but in that one sentence I saw all the wish-fulfilment of my short life coming together. If I had known then what I know now, I would have cuffed Mr Right sharply across his earhole and berated him for leading me on.

I think his own words must have put the wind up him because he broke up with me a few weeks later.

That midyear when my niece was born was a busy time in the production company for which I worked back then. Rehearsing one show during the day and operating lights every night for another meant I didn’t get much time off. A new lighting operator took over just before I departed for Grahamstown to do two shows at the annual National Festival of the Arts. A week later I flew back to Johannesburg to re-open the second of those shows, which had premiered at the festival.

After a few weeks things had calmed down sufficiently for me to bribe the lighting designer to do my job for a week. I travelled to Eshowe with Mr Right who was working there on a movie shoot. From Eshowe I did another lightning-quick trip across Zululand to Ladysmith to see my sister and her new baby, and Mr Right joined me there two days later for the family celebrations.

I still have the photos from that visit. Mr Right and I both looked happy in those pictures, and as for my tiny one-month old niece with her big eyes… Well, she was just SO cute…

Maybe I coo-ed over her too much. Perhaps it was the thought of babies that scared off Mr Right. Who knows? More fool him, because he should have known by then that I wasn’t the maternal type. And I should have known that he wasn’t the marrying type.

Anyway, he helped me to buy my first car later that same week and I drove it triumphantly back to Johannesburg, smug in the knowledge that Mr Right loved me and we would surely marry soon. But I didn’t know that the car was my goodbye present. Before I even had its new number plates, he had broken up with me. Mr Not-So-Right after all.

So why am I telling you this? What’s the point of a romance writer relating a story without a happy ending? Well, over the months which followed I finally saw that someone of my nature would eventually have been cowed, stunted and trampled into insignificance by a man as domineering and forceful as that particular Mister. Within six months I knew that I had had a lucky escape.

My next Mr Almost Right was just as lucky in his escape from me. He was young and idealistic, and I tended to push him around and trample his spirit. Just a bit. We were both young and I guess I didn’t care enough, but fortunately he later found a Mrs Right to nurture and love him properly.

One year, I had a torrid time with three consecutive Mr Wrongs. Mr Gentle Wrong was a kind, caring man, but I dumped him too eagerly when Mr Romantic Wrong swept me off my feet. It took me a while to realise that he was juggling a few of us at once. And dear Mr Grumpy Wrong who rescued me from him might have been outwardly dour but his demeanour hid a generous heart and I still think of him with great fondness.

I won’t talk here about the great love of my life who followed a few years later, because that still hurts. And I call him Mr Close-To-Right because he was perfect for me in so many ways.

But, time marches on.

Unlike my happily married niece, I have peculiar taste in men. I tend to choose those who seem ideal at first but over time they turn out to be a mis-match. Don’t get me wrong: most of them have been funny and creative, but I think my timing has always been a little off. When I wanted to marry, they didn’t. When they wanted to marry, I didn’t. Most of them went on to marry someone else, and I didn’t.

I still carry a little of each of them in my heart, and I can’t pretend that I haven’t called up aspects of their characters (the endearing, quirky, adventurous aspects) to provide inspiration for the heroes I write.

So in a way, maybe I found Mr Write after all.

Love letters

Love letters


Love seat


Chocolate love