On the rocks

by Jacqueline Dowling

Early Portuguese navigators called it Cabo de Bon Esperanza (Cape of Good Hope), rounded Cape Point and, depending on the weather, either sank or sailed on to lands of monkeys and exotic spices. Or, they called it Cabo Tormentosa (Cape of Storms), and simply sank. There are some 3000 wrecks along the Southern African coast and, after shivering through our present and extended winter, it’s not difficult to imagine why.

Image result for google images cape of good hope

Recently, the lagoon breached in a volcanic fury of mud, bushes, trees and a wall of water which swept away all intersecting sandbanks and clashed with breakers of the high spring tide sending columns of sea and fresh water high into the air , and a river of sludge heaving along the coast. It was an apocalyptic sight: especially when viewed from a car park rumoured to be built on the rubble from the old Birkenhead Hotel, named after a Royal Navy ship wrecked in 1852, with the loss of 450 lives, off Danger Point , at the southern end of Walker Bay. The Birkenhead, at the time, was the largest iron ship of the Royal Navy, en route to the Frontier War.

Today the force and anger of the lagoon is gradually sending the spirit of Birkenhead on yet another journey, undermining the car park in the process. It’s a crowd gatherer, no doubt about it: we stand in the teeth of a winter gale, leaning against the yellow safety barriers and rubber-necking in time with the surging and crashing of the tide. At times it’s almost balletic to watch the human movement, a motley collection of bodies swaddled in polar gear swaying hither and yon as the sea sucks and swells, woolly hats bobbing to the rhythm of their feet.

Recently the Atlantic exploded with such force against the sea wall in the fishing harbour that gates were washed away, windows in the diving ‘hut’ smashed and a trawler sank at its quayside moorings. Seaside homes had boulders delivered to their living rooms, bedrooms and garages on the back of brutal waves which smashed everything in their path. Tents and marquees erected for the annual Whale Festival landed up in trees and out at sea…and everyone agreed that it was the worst winter in living memory.

In time the gates were recovered from the seabed, slightly misshapen, but restored to their rightful place nevertheless. Divers fitted sliding sea-proof shutters to their hut and the pier was strengthened with vast quantities of concrete blocks: chunks of rusted boat were dredged up and sold as scrap. Now there are no more trawlers in the little harbour.

The sea is an icy bottle green: hail pounds the roof of our car as we battle to find a sheltering Milkwood: waterfalls race down mountainsides into the lagoon which, once again has reached saturation point. My mobile buzzes with a text from the municipality warning of heavy rainfall over the weekend , high winds and severe flooding.

It’s the first day of Spring.

Awesome Audio

By Sue Trollip

I’m still wild about Audio Books. I can’t believe the finesse, the talent of the readers. Someone compared them to a radio play, and I think they may be onto something. I’ve just finished To  Kill a Mockingbird read by Sissy Spacek. Wow.

The best reading I’ve heard so far is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I belive there’s a movie, but I think these readers invoked the best images I could wish for right here in my head.

You can download the audio book here, for free.

Where did you go Bernadette, is also for free here. It’s a great story about Bernadette who takes a metaphorical step off the planet when it starts to spin too fast.

I love that you can lessen the dullness of chores with a good book, you can do two things at once, like make supper and ‘read’. I’ve found a large supply and I’m revelling in it.

The simplicity of it all is also mindblowing. An app on your phone, an auxiliary chord into your car stereo, or a speaker and you’re good to go.

Simply superb. I raise my glass to technology.



Something Special

by Hazel Bond

“Now tonight for something special,”

Said his darling, little Petal.

“Here’s this woman’s magazine

Filled with recipes supreme.

Let’s forget about spaghetti.

There’s this thing called cappelletti!

I think it should delight a man,

But…I have no Parmesan

And I read here that they say,

‘Make the pasta at midday.’

Here’s another sounds a rave.

Oh, it needs a microwave.

Gammon wants a turnip diced.

Boiling beef a parsnip, sliced.

They would thus a problem posen,

If I had the meat unfrozen.

Boston beans must have black treacle?

Man, but that gives me the needle!

All this talk of food’s alarming.

As for me, I’m simply starving

Tell me darling, this I beg,

Would you like some scrambled egg.”

Getting the Groceries (and the Shackleton Clothing) Right

By Susan Roberts

For the whole of my working life in South Africa I never gave a thought to the way in which supermarkets were stocked. Of course I knew the products and brands I liked, so I didn’t bother much about the rest of the stuff. In fact, some of those preferences probably took root when I used to push the trolley for my mother back in the days of Noah’s Ark, when someone first invented the supermarket. Things have always been set out in a particular way and there’s been no reason to suppose it would ever be different.

Until I reached Australia. Ever since I arrived here I’ve been confused by the arrangement of goods in the local supermarkets.

Why do Australians put yoghurt sachets with desserts? Why do they hide the lemon juice in an aisle that bears absolutely no relation to anything regarding lemons, juice, fish or baking?

And another thing: I still can’t find packs of four frozen pizza bases that actually work properly on my pizza stone!

Slight digression here: I’d been here about six months before I finally found a pack of two enormous frozen pizza bases to make my own pizza. It took me ages to find the right ingredients, and even longer to ring up my purchases at the self-service checkout. Why do they call green peppers capsicum? Why are patty pans known as “squash yellow”? Did you know they call button mushrooms cup mushrooms? Me neither.

When I finally got the whole lot home I pulled my magnificent pizza stone out of its bubble wrap and did my usual thing. However, when the pizza came out the oven, its base had hardened into something resembling a stone itself and was completely inedible. Needless to say, the beloved pizza stone is back in its bubble wrap in the garage…

So – digression over; back to the current topic.

Last month I got myself a temporary job. In a supermarket…

To cut a long story short, I didn’t find this job – a friend very kindly found it for me and I spent four weeks capturing data in a supermarket for an online grocery shopping company. As regular readers of this blog know, I’ve never been a techno-wiz, but it seems that even I could point an iPod at a bar code, then take a photograph and fill in some details and press the “OK” button.

Well, okay let’s be brutally honest here – I did get some of those details wrong and after the button’s been pressed there’s no going back to change anything. However, I had a very patient boss who, when I phoned him to tell him I might have categorised a product or twelve in the wrong place, assured me that it was easy enough for him to change in the system when he checked it later.

Categorising groceries is actually harder than you think. I no doubt displayed my tendency to procrastinate as well as my warped, un-Australian idea of where to put them.

What are almond milk, rice milk and soy milk if they aren’t milk? Dairy alternatives? Fine, but then why was the normal cow milk stacked between them? Was it hiding from something? Pretending to be what it wasn’t? Or was it (as I suspect) lying in wait purely to trap me into classifying it as the wrong thing?

(Surely if they stacked the shelves in a less confusing way the manufacturers of cow milk wouldn’t have to put a drawing of a cow on the carton to avoid confusion? In retrospect, it’s probably just as well that most of them do. At least if I’ve categorised something wrongly, the picture should alert them.)

In the end, the best option seemed to be to pick the most likely category that people would search under and use that. Hence, if a vegan or lactose-intolerant person is looking for their version of milk, they’re less likely to look under “milk” and more likely to search under “lactose-free” or “vegetarian/vegan” options.

I really enjoyed categorising teas, hot chocolate and fresh yoghurt, though. In fact, I’ve never seen so many varieties of tea in my life. Fortunately I captured the data for hot chocolate after lunch and not before, or I might have been tempted to tear open packages and sample them with my bare hands because they all looked so good.

Did I say bare hands? Did I not mention that it was freezing in the supermarket where I stood static for hours each day? My only movement was in my thumbs, like some demented teenager texting on an iPhone, moving a few centimetres to one side or the other at a time. Around me, the staff of the supermarket dashed about with trolleys, unpacking boxes, moving stock and generally keeping their circulation going, while my feet slowly froze into ice blocks.

After the first day, I resorted to wearing the layers that I only ever used to use on holidays in the Berg. Gloves with the thumbs opened at the tips proved to be a good defence against frostbitten fingers, along with thermal underwear, scarf and beanie, and my trusty warm snowboots.

One family friend in Melbourne already calls me Mrs Shackleton because I’m smothered in winter woollies every time she sees me. It’s a good thing she didn’t shop in that particular supermarket in the last four weeks…

IMG_5028My Shackleton clothing waiting by the front door.