Escargot – WHAT?

Jac Dowling

This month’s blog was a bit of a toss-up; April 23 has come and gone – shall I write about Shakeapeare’s birthdays I have known – or the theatre – or the latest banking shenanigans? No, none of those I decided. The current global news offerings are so tragic that I thought a happier scribble might be the better option, so here we go – a regular salad of bits and pieces.

Some years ago we set out to explore the villages over the mountain, proper Boland stuff: grapes, wine, leiwater, cheeses, black springbok and a donkey sanctuary: the tranquil thatched village of McGregor. The day was hot, brilliant bougainvillea shaded broekie-lace stoeps and roses tumbled across the walls and gardens in a riot of blowsy colour; huge blooms in full summer dress, like Edwardian ladies at a garden party.

A small restaurant, hidden in a garden ablaze with flowering shrubs, lured us in across cool polished clay tiles to a vine covered patio. It was quiet there, peaceful. Just birdsong and a hidden trickling stream. The wine, light and chilled arrived in a bucket of ice shortly followed by smoked chicken salad – mounds of crisp lettuce, cucumber, baby tomatoes all glossy with olive oil, and crusty seed bread. A French couple sat nearby, deeply engrossed in their aromatic mounds of bobotie and sambals.

I gently disturbed the sculpture before me, in search of smoked chicken lurking below. A lettuce leaf moved, unforked. Thinking it was the wine working its early magic, I watched as it continued to twitch, and a slug the size of snail-100183169a small frog sleazed its way onto the plate, antennae working the four points of the compass as it slid its oily way through my beautiful salad. Now I’m not a lover of snails, cooked or on the hoof as it were. In fact I can honestly swear that I have never, knowingly, eaten one. So my OTT response to the unwelcome extra protein excited the attention of our French neighbours, who left their bobotie to inspect our find. ‘Ah bon!’ they exclaimed exultantly. ‘Escargot sans maison.’ Which described it perfectly and had the waitress in a tizz of mortification. The salad was replaced and the maison-less escargot despatched without further ado.

In 2005 our son and daughter-in-law were married at The Old Mill, not far from the restaurant. A beautiful day: the air still, the sun warm. We sat on baleimages1s of straw under jacarandas in full bloom as the simple and moving ceremony took place: the ground carpeted with compacted apricot pips, purple jacaranda blossom and golden acanthus. That evening tables were set among the vines with little candles lighting the way under a full moon. No sounds other than roosting birds, cicadas and happiness. A perfect setting for a wedding feast.

Last month we celebrated ten years of their marriage, and a special birthday with a weekend at The Old Mill , now renamed Green Gables. The vines have gone, but the old eucalyptus trees remain, their bark bronze and gold in the setting sun. Dinner (sans escargot) was candlelit, under a splendid Victorian chandelier. There was a full moon that night, no sounds other than that of roosting birds, cicadas and happiness. I thought how very fortunate we are to still find that sort of peace and simplicity, and the friendship, love and warmth of our children and their friends.



A beautiful and frosty new year

By Sue Trollip

I’m starting off my new year doing one of my favourite things … travelling.

I’m not actually going to leave at one minute past midnight and there will first be red wine and fireworks on a snow covered mountain, but after that I’m hopping into a car and fleeing across the snow covered desert to see what I find. As Robert Louis Stevenson said:

‘I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.’

I agree wholeheartedly, but I also like to go places, Robert. I like to immerse myself in whatever is there, or run for the nearest train, as I’ve done before. Moving though the world is always a lovely experience and today we have been discussing different smells and the way food tastes different in each country even when it’s the same. It’s interesting how we all see things in our own way. David Mitchell wrote in ‘Cloud Atlas’:

‘Travel far enough, you meet yourself.’

Even Henry Miller had it right when he said:

‘One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.’

So I’m going to see the Nevada desert, the mountains, the Pacific ocean and the city of San Francisco and when I return I will no doubt have learned a few more things about myself and my surrounds.

This morning, I travelled to the next town over in the blistering cold. My ears were cherry coloured icicles and my toes curled into their socks anxious to return to the heat of the car as I marched down the street of touristy shops. It was a browsing expedition, a fun outing in unbearable weather and when the lure of coffee seduced me back to the car I did not hesitate, until I saw the lake with windy sea-horses, a beach covered in snow and the distant mountains capped with more snow.DSC06409

Beautiful and frosty … now for the wine and the fireworks!


A Funny Thing (Or Two) Happened on the Way to Melbourne…

By Susan Roberts

It was supposed to be a stress-free visit to family and friends in Australia, to celebrate my birthday and have a bit of a holiday before the silly season hits us. But just getting there turned out to be more alarming than I’d bargained for. And if you believe (like I do) that things happen in threes, then you might need to check back here in a month or so and see if I’m still around and kicking.

Travelling from Durban to Melbourne includes two extra flights – one each end of the trip – which shouldn’t really be necessary but they are: Durban to Johannesburg; Johannesburg to Sydney; Sydney to Melbourne. I had to get up early on the morning of my travel day, check in two hours before departure in Durban and fly to Johannesburg so that I could spend four and a half hours waiting there before my flight from Joburg that evening. Within an hour of leaving Joburg, my plane flew back directly over Durban. That’s right, I waved down at my home which I had left almost eleven hours before and felt like I had gone nowhere yet.

Yes, eleven hours and that was just the start. But wait, there’s more…

After a night in the air, the same plane flew me over a cloud-covered Melbourne on our way to Sydney where I had to wait another three hours before I could catch my final flight back to Melbourne. It seemed like such a waste of time – if only the Joburg plane could have just stopped in Durban to pick me up and then stopped again in Melbourne to drop me off. But life is never that simple, is it?

I know it seems like I’m complaining when in reality air travel is faster and safer than most other forms of travel. However, before my long triple flight was over I would have time to doubt those maxims – more than once.

On the first flight – from Durban – the plane was about to touch down in Joburg, and the obligatory sigh of relief was about to be exhaled, when the pilot suddenly pulled the plane out of its final approach. We lurched upwards and soared back into the sky again, leaving the Joburg runway far below us. Bewildered passengers all around me began to ask each other what on earth was going on. After a few anxious minutes, the pilot announced that dangerous crosswinds and a warning from the tower had caused him to lift the plane out of the potential danger zone. He then had to turn it around and attempt the same approach a second time.

Then followed twenty agonising minutes, during which my whole life began to flash rather unattractively through my mind’s eye. I may not have made a huge impact on the world in my lifetime but, at 52, I wasn’t ready to leave it just yet. I could almost smell the breath of the Grim Reaper and it wasn’t welcome. I mean, I know we all have to die some day, but just before my holiday was about to start? Afterwards would be preferable, but not at all would be even better! We don’t know the way we’re going to shuffle off in the end but I had hoped for something a little more meaningful than a charred stain across the windswept runway of Joburg airport!

To the combined relief of all passengers and crew, we finally bounced down onto the concrete with a bump and a shake, skidding our way to a stop in the most terrifying landing I have ever been part of. To say that I needed the toilet after that would not be an exaggeration.

Four and a half hours and several cups of comforting Mugg & Bean tea later, I sat in my seat in the tail of my next plane – a Qantas jumbo – ready for the second leg of my triple flight. Through the window I could see lightning illuminating the rain-lashed ground beneath the plane; I could feel the howling wind and hear the thunder. And we hadn’t even left the safety of the departure gate yet.

We sat, fully loaded, in the pelting rain at Joburg airport while no fewer than ten planes lined up to take off, all delayed by at least an hour because of the weather. When it was finally our turn to join the queue, we taxied out to the end of the runway and watched two British Airways, one star Alliance, two SAA planes and one smaller plane whose logo it was impossible to read, take off before it was our turn. One every two minutes, the pilot told us. Three places behind us in the queue was another huge jumbo – Air France this time – towering over its companion planes just as we were. If it was this crowded on the ground, I didn’t want to think too much about the potential traffic jam in the sky above.

With our forward facing wing lights lighting up the stormy skies around us, we eventually left the ground and took to the skies an hour after our scheduled departure time. Finally we reached cruising height, but my second sigh of relief of the day was likewise thwarted as a flash of light outside the windows lit up the sky for a brief instant.

A few minutes later, our pilot announced in his laid-back Aussie accent that we had been struck by lightning. I began to wish that I’d never watched those ten seasons of Lost! Vivid memories of the fate of the “tailers” in the cheap seats began to surface. Then the pilot continued: “No worries, no damage, this is a fairly common occurrence.”

The following day we landed safely in Sydney without any further incidents. Later, as I made my way through the airport building to catch my connection to Melbourne, I overheard a fellow-passenger asking the pilot about lightning strikes and just how common they actually are.

“Used to be very common,” he told her, “but I haven’t had it happen to me in about ten years.”

Needless to say, I’m not really looking forward to my return journey in four weeks’ time…

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A Place to Call Home

by Penny M


A follower on our Going Global website describes himself as being without location. Personally, I have many places to go. I am staying in my seventh home (besides my own) in the last seven months. At the time of starting the outline for our book, Going Global – Technology made simple, designed for travelling from your armchair along the airwaves, I had no idea that I would be physically leaving home as often as I have in the last few months.

Until recently, the only packing required was a laptop, modem, clothing for a defined weather pattern and potkos (Afrikaans for tuck food or snacks). I soon learnt that packing is an acquired skill. Each destination requires a different set of clothing, accessories and sustenance, for example packing for a two month stay with children in two different cities in Australia entails garments and shoes for all climates, Samsung Galaxy Tablet, phone, memory sticks, camera, chargers and compatible adaptors. I had to arrange chronic medication with authorisations for collection before I left and a visa.

Toiletries are a given; it’s where to pack each item that complicates matters. I am gradually getting used to keeping several toiletry and cosmetic bags aside for this purpose; two for the hold, one for carry on. I try to keep one toiletry bag semi-stocked at all in-between-times. Well that’s the idea anyway.

Preparing for a two to three day stay in hospital, followed by a plus/minus two week time of recuperation at one or more addresses, with few or no steps to climb, no physical exertion or driving, posed a new set of challenges.

My home freezer is stuffed with Bulgarian Yoghurt pots full of various catering options, ready for my return. Unused fresh produce, the makings of my daily breakfast, some wicked biscuits and rooibos teabags etcetera were sent ahead, complete with minimal provisions, clothing, bedding and towels for who knew how long, to my first recuperative destination at the home of a gracious friend. After five days there, I relocated to another friend’s home.

John Meyer’s song, A Place to Call Home, drew my attention as I was pondering my immediate future.

I’m an architect
Of days that haven’t happened yet
I can’t believe a month is all it’s been
You know my paper heart
The one I fill with pencil marks
I think I might have gone and inked you in

I don’t need tea leaves to see more globetrotting on the horizon; no, not a caravan of camels, but a couple (give or take a few) of bags on wheels, my tablet and an umbrella. Perhaps I should be writing articles for the Getaway Magazine.

Watch this space; I might have inked you in!

Magic Carpet Ride

By Sue Trollip

It’s because of my semi-pathological fear of museums and my embarrassing inability to read a map that I spend my first night in Istanbul in my hotel room crying into a Styrofoam dish of baklava, clinging to a grande Starbucks latte and periodically jumping up and down on a Turkish carpet that I don’t want, never had any intention of buying and yet, somehow, now own.

The day starts delightful and foreign with walnuts and apricots for breakfast and by the afternoon I’ve walked around a large portion of the old part of town. Then it begins to drizzle and unsure of my exact location, or more to the point which direction is the way back to my hotel, I stand still. With frizzed hair and a discombobulated brain I forget not to engage in conversation with strangers and so I smile when Erol, evidently a Turkish name meaning courageous, asks if he can help me. He enquires whether I’ve seen the Serpentine column and when I shake my head he tells me about the drunken Pole who threw stones at the snake heads and broken them off the top of the plaited column. I think of how the column looks like a blue koeksister and how long it’s been since breakfast.

I giggle when he asks where my blue skirt is to match my eyes because it’s at least the sixth time I’ve been asked that same question today. So instead of grimacing, I smirk at the short man in his long trench coat, with his perfect, even in the rain, hair, dark brown eyes and shiny leather shoes. I listen as he lectures me on the column of Constantine and explains about the holes once being filled by jewels. I marvel at the Hippodrome. Then he offers me tea at his shop and a minute or two out of the rain. It seems rude to refuse.

Fifteen minutes after stepping into his shop I am back on the pavement, this time clutching a black carpet bag.

‘What just happened?’ I ask myself as I step onto Galata Bridge. I squeeze my eyes shut for a moment before walking on into the fat drops of rain.

‘Why did you hand over your credit card?’ It’s an interesting question. But I blame it on the art of bamboozling.

Picture this.

Inside the shop, after tea has been requested, courageous Erol disappears and another man arrives. Within seconds he’s shouting instructions in curt Turkish to four other men who are running around throwing carpets onto the floor at my feet. There are hundreds of them, flying whimsically through the air to land almost touching my toes. Even for someone, like me, who doesn’t particularly like these carpets, they’re magnificent, like magic carpets.

Like a fool I admire one and the main man rubs his hands and says: ‘For you, thirteen thousand euros.’

At this point I leap to my feet and run for the door but he blocks my way. Not in a threatening style but more in a, wait it’s impolite to leave before I’m finished, sort of manner.

‘I’m paying in rands,’ I explain as I sink back into the chair.

He keeps talking, changing prices, changing carpets and changing currencies until my brain is swirling like a runaway merry-go-round.

That’s when he puts out his hand and says: ‘Visa!’