Wednesday, 30 September 2009

A Moment of Magic


"When we look at a photograph, a moment of magic occurs. It is as if someone had laid a sheet of translucent paper over our thoughts and made a tracing of our memories."

Tom Bentkowski




Sorting through a bookshelf full of albums this morning with the intention of putting our pre-digital photographs on CD for safe-keeping before we move house, I paused for a moment when I saw this photo of Yoweri Museveni, president of Uganda, taken at his inauguration in Kampala in 1996. Ah yes, I remember the day well…..



The mist curled like a gossamer ribbon through the valley and as the sun kissed the hills above it, Kampala came into focus like a city from a dream. The mosque dome shone like a polished jewel in its encircling crown of ivory minarets and the air smelled of wood smoke and eucalyptus. Clustered buildings glowed pink in early morning light and red kites soared above them like shadowy angels on gentle thermals.

Luca, our askari, waved his AK47 in the air with enthusiastic vigour and did a stomping dance of delight as he opened the gate for us. “Yoweri Museveni!” He bellowed, “FreeDOM fighter!” Then, wiping a hand down the front of his khaki jacket and smiling his familiar wide white smile, his eyes sparkling with merriment, he shook hands with each of us in turn.

As we walked from the house to join the crowd on the airfield, I heard the whack-whack thrum of a helicopter overhead and watched as its gleaming underbelly loomed large and then disappear down behind the line of trees in front of us. A gangly marabou stork, looking for a grasshopper breakfast, pecked at the grass on the verge beside the road and gave us a mad, lopsided stare as we passed him. Once the sound of the helicopter had diminished, birdsong swelled again like a cresting wave.

Idi Amin and Milton Obote had soaked this lush, sylvan country with the blood of several hundred thousand people until Museveni and his heroic bush army saved it from total devastation. This was the day he would be officially inaugurated as President of Uganda and we wanted to be there when it happened.

The airfield was ablaze with the swirling, vibrant colours of the Ugandan traditional dress and highlighted by the dazzling white kanzus which men wear for special occasions. We joined the crowd and people around us smiled and shook our hands, their faces alight with the joyful anticipation of a new day and a new dawn. The agony of decades of civil war behind them, they surged forward, taking us with them and making us theirs. We heard the pulsing drumbeat of victory and the high, melodious chant of beautiful clear voices which grew louder and stronger as we moved forward towards the podium.

Suddenly the crowd parted and in the space they left between them, a line of tall, powerful Karamojong warriors danced forward making a deep, sonorous hissing sound which rose higher and stronger until it sounded like the bottom note on a cathedral organ. Behind them, in a large, slow moving truck Museveni stood proudly, holding on to the roll bar with one hand, waving and acknowledging the surging crowd with a warmth that was palpable. He looked every inch the statesman.

As he reached the podium and climbed the steps to the microphones there was a sudden silence. I looked around at the sea of faces and, for the first time since we’d joined in the celebration, I realized ours were the only white faces amongst them. We were mazungu….but nobody had noticed. Or if they had, they had disregarded it and embraced us as theirs. My heart swelled with pride and I turned back to face the podium to listen to a hero speak.


Back to the present and strict word to self, “stop reminiscing and get back to work….!” Oh, but before I go, here is a novel by the Ugandan writer, Goretti Kyomuhendo, which you may enjoy as a departure from the ubiquitous ‘Last King of Scotland’ by Giles Foden.


Dissecting the vile consequences of life during and after civil strife can lead many authors into the quagmire of the blame game. With her novella Waiting, Kyomuhendo overcomes the need to induce universal guilt; instead she draws the reader into evocative and provocative prose that flits gently between the real and the surreal. Her haunting and gritty tale is set in Hoima, a rural town in western Uganda, during the madness-marked reign of Idi Amin.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Great Snoring Discovery


"This house," said the real estate salesman, "has both its good points and its bad points. To show you I'm honest, I'm going to tell you about both. The disadvantages are that there is a chemical plant quarter of a mile to the north and a slaughterhouse quarter of a mile to the south.

"What are the advantages?" inquired the prospective buyer.

"The advantage is that you can always tell which way the wind is blowing." replied the realtor.

Like lawyers, real estate agents are not high in the popularity stakes. That’s as the case may be, but years ago when Guy and I were looking to buy our very first house in South Africa, we made a new best friend in our agent Jilly. She was full of joie de vivre, hilariously self-deprecating and, above all, totally without artifice. In other words, she just didn’t believe in bull and was adept at showing us houses that would suit both us and, more importantly, our budget. It wasn’t her fault, then, that we ended up buying a house we couldn’t really afford. See, the thing is, after a long weeks of viewing and just not finding anything that rocked all the fleet, Jilly sighed piteously and said, “Okay, I’m going to take you for a peek at a house that has just come onto the market. It has everything on your wish list – and on mine too, for that matter - but there is no way in Hades that you can afford it. So forget about buying it. It’s strictly a ‘look and drool, but don’t touch’ house.”

Jilly unlocked the front door of No. 3 Havelock Square and motioned us through. Guy and I walked into the hallway, gazed up at the sweeping staircase, the beautiful architraves, the scrubbed wooden floors, the enormously high ceilings and huge sash windows and were both rendered speechless.


As we were leaving, I looked back at the house…..and it winked it me. I kid you not. It winked and whispered, “I’m yours.” And so it came to be that we lived there for many very happy years with our girls and two fat Labs until the time came for us to say totsiens to South Africa and head off on other adventures.

During our recent house hunt here in England, I knew that we’d never find another Havelock Square, but the cottage we found on our safari to Norfolk last weekend did make us look at each other and squeal. Well, Guy doesn’t do squealing, but he grinned widely when I did, so I knew he liked it too.

It’s called The Red House – which I like – and it’s in a tiny village called Great Snoring – which makes me laugh. It‘s a few minutes from the wild and empty Norfolk coast which means long walks and seafood feasts and lots of sailing in the summer. It’s only an hour and 40 minutes from London by train, so not far for the girls and not far for us to go to get our big city hit every now and then. It isn’t very big, but there is enough room for friends and family. Most important of all is that The Red House feels happy and looks pretty. D’you know what I mean? Yes, I’m sure you do!

Right then, let me take you on a tour of England and show you a small selection of the houses we’d seen before we found the little red one in Great Snoring.

(Important to remember, though, that ‘one man’s meat...’  All the houses shown here are truly lovely, but just not right for us.)



Lovely converted chapel, tiny courtyard garden and no room for family and friends.




Cute, but too dark and squishy inside.


Wonderful position, dreamy views, but it didn’t ‘wink’.




Adorable, but just a bit too teeny weeny.




Wrong county.




Blissful isolation.  Bit chilly.




More glorious solitude.  Too far away for weekend visits from family.




Too low for long people.




Enchanting, but looming pylon.




Almost… but not quite.

And finally……



The Red House.


sitting room




Hold thumbs that all goes according to plan and do remember, the door will always be open for my bloggy friends! If you’d like to see a little more of Norfolk, I wrote about it here: Childhood Imaginings.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Illustration Friday – Pattern



‘Lori’s Diamond’


It’s true that life forms illogical patterns.   I think those patterns are mostly haphazard,  but hugely exciting and full of beauties which I try to catch as they fly by, for who knows whether any of them will ever return.


Thursday, 24 September 2009

Guest chef for the day in Lola’s kitchen!



A Cultural Potpourri

As an avid reader and admirer of Lola’s splendiferous Aglio, Olio & Peperoncino blog since its inception, I was absolutely tickled pink to be invited by her to be a guest chef for a day. It is truly an honour, especially since Lola is a culinary magician who transports us – with enormous flair and eloquence – to her Italian ‘headquarters’ in the Eternal City and shares with us the culture, traditions, art, food and vibrant history of that glorious country.

Lola and I have been bloggy friends for a while now and she knows that I also love to cook, so the invitation to be guest chef on her blog is a wonderfully serendipitous opportunity to share a typically South African recipe with you.

Although I’ve lived in many parts of Africa, Cape Town is where I was born and raised so it seems appropriate that I should take you there. Please, come with me to that beautiful city nestled in the curve of its famous mountain and allow me to introduce you to the colourful Bo-Kaap area and to the Cape Malay people who live there.

It would be wonderful if you could join Lola and me over at the Aglio, Olio & Peperoncino kitchen today where I have prepared a Cape Malay feast of fragrant, seductive bobotie with its traditional accompaniments of a delicious, tangy chutney made with dried fruit and gentle spices called blatjang, a divinely aromatic dish of cinnamon infused geelrys and a peppery green salad simply dressed with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of the best olive oil Italy can provide.

Finally, we’ll open a bottle or three of an ambrosial Cape Syrah from the Boekenhoutskloof Estate in Franshoek to add a little extra zing to a meal worthy of a Bo-Kaap princess.

It will be a truly international affair, so why not pop on over to Lola’s Roman kitchen by clicking the chef’s hat and let’s get started. With the lovely, effervescent  Lola as our host, I just know you’re going to enjoy every moment.  See you there…and lekker eet!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Possible Dreams – The Winner


henry art 001 Good Dreams – Treasure Hunting




Thank you all SO much for taking the time to tell us all about your dreams in my Build A Bridge post.  You shared with us the good, the bad and the ugly. For you all, I wish only good things...always and in all ways.

Georgie found it very hard to pick a winner - KJ's story of Henry the lion is beyond delightful and having her very own Henry, it made KJ's dream extra special to her.

Lola's awful dream had us shuddering in horror and to chase it away for good, Henry said he would like to send a matted and signed print of ‘Moondancer’ for the adorable Mr. E.

Perhaps lovely Holly's wise words will also give Lola some comfort. ‘The Mare said to the Night, "This galaxy is my pasture; no harm comes to those who love and dream. I wait and watch over them." Thank you, Holly, for that wonderful thought.

Maternal astuteness helped the little Miranda get over her nasty encounter with Mr Blobby Green. Now that Miranda is a mother herself, she too will be there to help her little one get over any horrid imaginings.

Elizabeth is spot on when she says that dreams can be used to inspire creativity – which is exactly how Miranda’s Mama helped her find the better side of Mr. Blobbly Green!

Linda Sue's potentially awful dream brought out the heroine in her – she determinedly saved all the puppies despite the difficulty of the task. Although exhausted, she was triumphant in the end! Linda Sue, thank you for sharing that with us – it’s certainly a lesson in how to succeed no matter how tough the goal may be. Thank you, too, for offering to donate to Possible Dreams International in order to help those gracious and gentle people of Swaziland. Dr. Maithri has a PayPal button on the sidebar of his Soaring Impulse blog especially for contributions to PDI. Big grateful hugs to you, very dear friend!

Michele really turned her nightmare around by finding something truly positive in what would be a deeply horrible situation. Yes! As families, we are inextricably linked and even if it means going to hell and back, at the very least we have them right there by our side.

Carol faced the demon wild man who was intent on hi-jacking her aspirations – she stared right back and POOF, he vanished! How wise you are, Carol, to have understood and interpreted your nightmare and by doing so, realised that you ARE good enough to tackle even the most challenging undertaking. Sending you bucketfuls of good luck and best wishes!

Beth, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. It’s true that dreams of loved ones long departed can be a little disconcerting and unsettling but as you say, at least we get a glimpse. It’s good that they are not forgotten and those glimpses can be inspirational, especially if they come when things are not easy.

Karen, Polly, Monica, Renee, Mr. Cuban, Amy, Fay and Prashant – thank you very much for taking the time to visit and for your heart-warming comments. It is always wonderful to ‘see’ you. Maithri, you know this already….you are our hero.

In the end, Georgie decided that Linda's resolute approach in facing her nightmare...and learning from it...was the best lesson of all. As Linda says 'I know I don't have the answers to life's most difficult questions, but now I know I don't need to know...I just need to be willing to ask.'  Absolutely! Linda, you are a shining star - thank you. £100 is on it's way….in your Possible Dreams International. ‘Moondancer’ is also galloping over to you there in beautiful Sonoma County as we speak!

As promised, Georgie is also sending £100 on Henry's behalf to Possible Dreams.

Most of all, I want to thank you all for reaching out to build those metaphorical bridges. Dr. Maithri says it far better than I ever could -”You have brought deep and tangible hope into the lives of so many whose voices have been forgotten by a complacent word……..action is the true heart of love.”


Again, thank you all so much. Love you to bits and pieces - you really do rock my world!  If you haven’t already got it, this award goes to you…..and you….and you!  Wear it on your sidebar with my love.

(**Between manic house-hunting and visits to various Doctors all over the country, life is crazy-bonkers at the moment so please forgive me for not having visited your wonderful blogs lately.  I’ll be back real soon!**)

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Win a dream, build a bridge.



Moon Dancer ~ The Night Mare

“I have had dreams and I have had nightmares, but I have conquered my nightmares because of my dreams”

Jonas Salk


Have you ever seen a starving child? Have you ever seen a child in rags? Have you ever seen a mother – so tired and so ill - in tears not because she is dying, but because she cannot look after her children? Have you ever watched a small child playing and you know that the only thing her parents left her was the AIDS virus? Have you ever watched as people beg for the very things that we throw out? Have you ever been moved by the fact that 19,000 children die each day in Africa? Have you ever thought “that’s awful! Somebody should do something.”? Have you ever realised that someone could be you?

That someone WAS YOU..…and you…and you…and you too!  You are all heroes because it was you who reached out.

gogo ndzimandze and zweli 035-1 The lives we’ve touched ~ The Gogos and the AIDS orphans with Dr. Maithri

Yes, you did! So many of you reached out and helped build a bridge by buying Limited Edition prints of my Africa paintings so that all the proceeds could go to help the AIDS orphans who live in dire poverty in a tiny mountain kingdom in Africa which, for some obscure reason, has been overlooked by those large NGOs like Oxfam and UNICEF (‘The Lords of Poverty’ by Graham Hancock). Swaziland has the highest prevalence of HIV infection in the world and as a result there are are over 15,000 orphan led households in that little unremembered country.  Between us, dear bloggy friends, we have raised close to $2,000 for Dr. Maithri Goonetilleke’s Swaziland project, Possible Dreams International.  Part of the money we raised has gone to help feed two families for two whole years!  (See my side bar)  Our contributions have also helped in the construction of a well so that fresh, clean water is available for families in the Mambane region of Swaziland for the first time ever!


In a bid to get to that $2,000 mark in our own particular effort to help Dr. Maithri and his team make life just a little easier for these wonderfully brave people in Swaziland, I would like to do a give-away for my painting ‘Moon Dancer’. The painting was originally made for my grandboy - five year old Henry - when he’d had a rather horrid dream which after much discussion, he and I decided should be turned in a good dream rather than a bad one. So the nightmare became a night mare called Moon Dancer who has an entire galaxy of stars as her friends and a most beautiful home on the moon.  Henry’s ‘Moon Dancer’ is about 8” x 6” and is painted in acrylics on Fabriano 400gsm 100% cotton rag.  The original painting will go to the winner of the give-away nicely matted and framed and ready to hang. All you have to do is turn a nightmare into a good dream and leave your interpretation in the comments section!

IMG_4262 Henry

I’ll donate £100 in the winner’s name to Possible Dreams International and Henry’s Mama – who will be choosing the winner of your ‘bad to good dream’ comments – said she would match my donation by giving £100 in Henry’s name to Possible Dreams. Sound good? Well, go on then, start dreaming…..

“There is hope in dreams, imagination, and in the courage of those who wish to make those dreams a reality.” 

Jonas Salk


Jonas Salk was best known for his discovery and development of the first safe and effective polio vaccine. In 1955, when the Salk vaccine was introduced, polio was considered the most frightening public health problem of the post war era. Annual epidemics kept getting worse and victims were usually children. By 1952 it was killing more of them than any other communicable disease, with over 300,000 cases and 58,000 deaths, mostly children, reported that year. The "public reaction was to a plague," said historian William O'Neill. "Citizens of urban areas were to be terrified every summer when this frightful visitor returned."

In 1947, while working at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, Salk saw an opportunity to develop a vaccine against polio, and devoted himself to this work for the next eight years. The field tests Salk set up were, according to O'Neill, "the most elaborate program of its kind in history, involving 20,000 physicians and public health officers, 64,000 school personnel, and 220,000 volunteers." When news of the discovery was made public on April 12, 1955, Salk was hailed as a miracle worker, and the day almost became a national holiday. He further endeared himself to the public by refusing to patent the vaccine, as he had no desire to profit personally from the discovery, but merely wished to see the vaccine disseminated as widely as possible. After founding the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California, Dr. Salk’s last years were spent searching for a vaccine against AIDS.**

And finally, to help get your imaginations fired up here are a few fun examples of how to turn bad dreams around:

  • Skeleton Key You found the key to your heart.
  • Being invisible You have nothing to hide
  • Growing a tail Because you can't grow a beard
  • Sleepwalking You know exactly where you are going in your life
  • Empty House It's quite possible you don’t have a brain
  • Guitar without strings You ignore rules of convention
  • Missing the bus You're on the right track, so keep moving
  • Webs Too much time spent on the internet
  • Ladder Your superstitions are bunk, switch to urban myths
  • Three headed cat Egotism
  • Four headed cat You’re a megalomaniac!


(P.S.  Due to a series of safaris which have taken us the length and breadth of Britain in the search for our little cottage, I’ve not been around much lately.   I’m missing you all hugely, so I can’t wait for things to settle down a bit when I’ll return to my Blog World with renewed energy!)

Friday, 4 September 2009

Illustration Friday – Strong


TafterMod Self Portrait – after Modigliani

My Papa was a wonderfully prolific and articulate letter writer and it was he who sent this quote to me many years ago when I was in a bit of a dilemma about my future during my final term at school. I haven’t a clue who said these words initially - all I know is that I do love what it says.

“It's not enough to have a dream unless you’re willing to pursue it. It's not enough to know what's right unless you’re strong enough to do it. It's not enough to join the crowd, to be acknowledged and accepted. You must be true to your ideals, even if you’re excluded and rejected. It's not enough to learn the truth unless you also learn to live it. It's not enough to reach for love unless you care enough to give it.”

In a rather oblique way that quote reminds me a little of an interesting and thought-provoking question asked by Bonnie of Bonnie's Original Art Studio about blogging and our own particular reasons for participating in this comparatively new form of communication

Bonnie mentions that Will Schutz's theory of group development may be a contributing factor in what drives us to blog.  This premise was something that had never occurred to me. Having read her very well-expressed post on the subject I found myself pondering Schutz’s hypothesis with renewed interest. I didn’t comment immediately because it is a big question and one which needs a little thought, but this is close to what I posted in her comments section a bit later.

I think Herman Melville put it best when he said, "We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibres, our actions run as causes and return to us as results."  A perfect description of blogging, don't you think?

I began blogging because I wanted - rather self-importantly, perhaps - to record moments in my life which hold special resonance for me and which I hoped would interest others. But, mostly, I started blogging for the same reasons that Alistair Cooke read those ‘Letters From America’ until he was an octogenarian. I'm an expatriate and most of my friends are scattered around the world. Each post is a letter home, wherever that is, and it's also a letter about home, wherever that might be.

It's a letter to some child not yet born, and to the friends, colleagues, sisters, brothers and former classmates who might stop by. (Funny how those circles overlap.)

It is a journal for my children and grandchildren about the things, people, and places that I love. I could store up enthusiasms until I burst, but writing them down is a better way to absorb and share them. Much to my surprise and delight, I also discovered the joy found via "invisible threads" and "sympathetic fibres" - those human connections made along the way. I realised, too, that blogging brought the lovely comfort of strangers – and that fantastic buzz of interaction between like-minded people world wide.

And, let’s face it, blogging has a great beat and you can dance to it!

**Many of our mutual bloggy friends have already seen and commented – most eloquently - on Bonnie's excellent post, but for those who haven’t – there is a cerebral treat in store for you.**

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Blogland Dreams

One way of getting to know a country really, really well is to go house hunting.  In the search for our dream cottage, we’ve been up the side of mountains, down into the valleys, across the marshes and broads, over the downs, along the coast and into any number of villages.  To no avail.  Yet.

blogland lane

Rather than getting into a right royal tizzy, I thought I’d better concentrate on my Blogland Lane beach house instead.  Here, please come with me and we’ll go on a tour before sitting out on the deck with the sun gently touching our cheeks, a whispering sea breeze to soothe and a big jug of homemade lemonade and some very yummy-scrummy raspberry cheesecake to nourish the soul.


The deck, with views to forever. 


Lots of books and cushions and comfy sofas for chillin’ when it’s stormy outside.


Cosy annexe for when the family visits.


The engine room!

HOUSEBEAutiful90 from camilla at home

A place to feast if it’s cold outside.  (Must make some cushions for those benches to prevent numb-bum syndrome.)


Their room.


Your room.


Our room.


The boys’ room.


  Outside bathing? 


Or do you prefer a little privacy?


Lemonade, anyone?

raspberry cheesecake

And some raspberry cheesecake?

Georgie’s Yummy-Scrummy Cheesecake

This is a really easy two-step recipe that looks like it took hours - and lots of skill - to make.

                • 8 digestive biscuits
                • 50g butter , melted
                • 600g cream cheese
                • 2 tbsp plain flour
                • 175g caster sugar
                • 2 eggs, plus 1 yolk
                • 142ml pot soured cream
                • 300g raspberries
                • icing sugar

Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Crush the biscuits in a food processor (or put in a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin). Mix with the butter. Press into a 20cm springform tin and bake for 5 minutes, then cool.

Beat the cream cheese with the flour, sugar, eggs, the yolk and soured cream until light and fluffy. Stir in half the raspberries and pour into the tin. Bake for 40 minutes and then check, it should be set but slightly wobbly in the centre. Leave in the tin to cool.

Keep a few raspberries aside for decoration and put the rest in a pan with 1 tbsp icing sugar. Heat until juicy and then squish with a fork. Push through a sieve. Serve the cheesecake with the raspberry sauce and some raspberries flung artistically over the top.