Thursday 30 July 2009

You wanna buy louse?


South Down Farm.front South Down Farm

I’m writhing in remorse and festooned with guilt.  As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve been extremely tardy about visiting my favourite blogs recently.  See, the thing is…..we are selling South Down and it’s been all hands on deck getting the house ship-shape and ready to sail the turbulent seas of real estate brokering.

colour.correct5Drawing Room

The photographer has been and gone, brochures have been printed, lawns have been mowed, weeds have been weeded and a studio full of paint and pictures has been tidied.  Viewing appointments have been made and people have been coming and going and peering and poking and umming and aaahing.

colour.correct6 Bedroom 1

The up-side of it all is that we’re not in a desperate hurry to rid ourselves of this house, so if she (it is a she) doesn’t sell this summer we won’t yelp too loudly and will try again next year.  Guy will have to continue his daily three hour commute to work for another six or so months and I can fling paint around my studio again for a while.

colour.correct2 Kitchen

The reason we came to this momentous decision – selling a house is momentous – was because now that our girls have established themselves in London and Buckinghamshire respectively, we have found ourselves rattling about in a house that is really too big for just me and Guy on our own.  Personally, I would like to live in a Land Rover and travel forever, but the reality is that Guy’s journey to work and back is thoroughly exhausting.  Especially in winter when he leaves and returns in the pitch dark.  Then there is the upkeep of 1.5 acres of garden and lawn – no mean feat in itself and very time consuming.   Weekends are often spent doing a multitude of chores and Guy therefore doesn’t have much time to indulge in his passions for sailing and hiking.

stablesStables and East View

So, potentially, it’s out with the old and in with the new.  What will we do if we sell?  Probably buy a teeny tiny cottage nearer Guy’s work and thus free up our time for a bit more adventure and exploration.  Maybe…just maybe…we could also find a little spot in sunnier climes to which we can escape from time to time.  You’d all be more than welcome to visit.  I mean it.  Seriously.

south.viewSoutherly View

In the meantime, may I ask you to please excuse me for not having visited your bloggy homes more often?  Now that everything is set to go, I will be zipping around Blogland much more frequently.  See you there!

Monday 27 July 2009

IF – Idle





"Sit in reverie and watch the changing colour of the waves that break upon the idle seashore of the mind."

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ~

Wednesday 22 July 2009

Stukkie, Stompie and the Countess


It wasn’t very long ago that three friends decided to leave their respective husbands, abandon their children, cast responsibilities to the four winds and set off to conquer Africa. And we did it!

cape to kampala **Giraffe at Nyala are for Lola and Mr. E, with love**

Two of the three were me (aka ‘Stompie’) and my sister, Janie (aka The Countess). Jane de S. (aka ‘Stukkie’) was our wonderfully eccentric and much loved travelling companion until we reached Tanzania where she had to leave the team and fly back to meet her children in Uganda. Undeterred, Janie and I bashed our way on up through the Serengeti, down into the Ngorongoro Crater, across into Kenya…and up over the border into beautiful Uganda and our ultimate destination …..the foothills of The Mountains of the Moon.


Here is my account of the journey in a poem which is written backwards because we originally intended to start from Uganda. In fact we eventually did it the other way around – starting from the meeting of those two oceans at the very tip of Africa up to the Mountains of the Moon (Ruwenzori) in Uganda – 10,089 kilometres in all!



With vehicle stocked and engine oiled

And brand new Michelins still unsoiled,

We’ll venture forth to chase our dream

Of dusty plains where wild game teem.

Of glistening dunes in desert places,

Immense blue skies and feral spaces.

Of rainbow’d falls and verdant valleys

And canyon floors – vast granite alleys.


From Malawi’s clear, sun-crystal’d lake

The southern route is one we’ll take.

Through Tete and Zim to Mozambique

Past fever trees and dried-up creek.

Then ‘cross the Swazi hills we’ll go

Where geysers soar and rivers flow.

From highland veldt and blond savannah,

Through sprawling huts to hillside manor.

Across Limpopo hinterland and the desiccated plain

To teeming herds of antelope, and elephants again.



Down through the desert, past skeletal coast

Bleached white bones and shipwreck’d ghost

To shimmering saltpans and dry bed Chari

And the sand filled seas of the Kalahari.

Through wastelands red, the ochre Nama

Mythical canyons and rock strewn drama.

On to the mountains, through fields of maize

To magical memories of childhood days,

Where dolphins skim the blue-green sea

And the wild, white beaches – running free.

sea - cropped

Through sunny vineyards with grapes so sweet

We’ll reach the point where two oceans meet.

We’ll watch the waves crash, huge and mighty

And then turn our thoughts to dear old Blighty.

But Africa will hold her spell; the pulsating beat

And rhythm of cicada song, the sizzling heat.

Misty valleys, sapphire lakes and sunset glory;

Jungled slopes and snow-clad peaks of Ruwenzori.

Crocodiles and splashing hippo, the puissant Nile.

A tribal song: a ritual dance – that welcome smile.


Monday 20 July 2009

IF - Tango

nakasero Nakasero Market

Come with me to Nakasero Market in Kampala where we’ll find the freshest and plumpest of mangos all artfully arranged in towering piles or laid out like big sun-burnished jewels in palm leaf baskets. Or, if it’s a little too hot for the crowded jostle of brightly clad ladies arguing prices at the top of their voices, we could just step into the garden and pluck one or two of those buxom beauties from that tree over there – see, right there next to the that lovely old fig tree?


Then we can take our filled bowl and sneak into the kitchen while Emanuel is out and cook up a dozen or so of my world-renown Mango Tango Muffins. (Well, I exaggerate a little – my muffins are world-renown in the sense that my family live in various corners of the globe and these are their favourite!)


The marriage of mango and banana in these delicious, tenderly moist muffins is heavenly. They are ambrosia itself when eaten fresh from the oven, but even more so the day after when the spices and lime have had time to entwine their flavours sufficiently to make this a muffin to remember.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 2 cups diced ripe mango
  • 1 medium ripe banana, mashed
  • * optional
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup slithered almonds

In a large bowl, combine the first five ingredients. In another bowl, combine the eggs, oil, lime juice and zest; add to the dry ingredients just until moistened. Stir in the mango, banana, raisins and nuts.

Fill paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 350ْ for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.

mangomuff Breakfast with muffin

And while you're eating your Mango Tango Muffin and sipping that freshly brewed coffee, why don’t you sing along with Connery Sean……

Underneath the mango tree
Me honey and me can watch for the moon
Underneath the mango tree
Me and me honey make boobaloo soon
Underneath the moonlit sky
Me honey and me sit hand in hand
Me honey and me make fairyland

Mango, banana and tangerine
Sugar and ackee and cocoa bean
When we get marry we make them grow
And nine little chil' all in a row
Underneath the mango tree
Me honey and me can watch for the moon
Me and me honey we plan marry soon

If that doesn’t put you in the mood for a tango with your honey, well……I’ll eat my hat!

Wednesday 15 July 2009

Of Sultans and Slaves


I was looking through an album of photographs I took in Zanzibar a few years ago. I wanted to remind myself of that languorous, deeply sensual island with its coral fringed reefs and steamy tropical vegetation because I’d just finished reading Abdulrazak Gurnah’s Admiring Silence. 

gurnah It’s a tale of a man hopelessly enmeshed in a trap of his own making. After fleeing Zanzibar for England, the nameless narrator fathers a child by an English woman and struggles to come to terms with the racism he must confront as well as his ambivalence toward becoming part of English society. The brittle and fragile existence he builds for himself comes crashing down during a visit to his native land after many years away. There he realizes that he is an outcast from both worlds. Admiring Silence is a bitter and often bitterly funny look at the struggle to belong in an alien world.

Gurnah’s descriptions of the island are not as romantic, idealistic  or as fanciful as my memory of Zanzibar and its capital, Stone Town……….



Some places whisper, some shout and some prattle incessantly like meaningless dinner-party small talk. Zanzibar sings.


It sings of sultans and slaves, of lateen-rigged dhows driven by monsoons past coral-kissed coastlines. It sings of unspeakable cruelty, unimaginable wealth, palaces dedicated to pleasure and the elopement of a love-struck princess.


Zanzibar is the stuff of grand opera; it's a score from the wildest imagination, composed from a rich melody of aromatic spices and ivory.


But the tale of Zanzibar is also written in blood and rooted in historical reality. The principal players have long since vacated their dressing rooms and the audience has gone home, but the orchestral strains of the opera linger on through the narrow, labyrinthine streets of Stone Town.


Like women in full purdah, each dilapidated shutter hides a story, each carved wooden door tells a tale. The island's legacy of trade hangs heavy over the market place where mangoes, tomatoes, chill is and bananas - as long and curved as Persian sabres - provide sensory relief from fly-ridden fish entrails, octopus tentacles and cow's heads.


You can almost hear the tragic chorus of thousands of slaves at the Anglican Church, erected on the site of the infamous slave market. The damp, claustrophobic dungeons make your skin crawl, as do the tales of suffering and inhumanity.


Out in the squares the chorus singers are still in fine voice. "Jambo, habari" they greet passers by. “Karibuni, you are welcome again," chime in the traders and curio sellers. High above the hum of dala-dalas and the shrill of bicycle bells, muezzins call from the town's 50 mosques. The spine-chilling yawl of scrawny cats fighting over a rotten morsel of fish adds a discordant note.


It's all part of the melee of cultures, sights and sounds that are Stone Town. For Zanzibar is a pocket of contrasts - there's squalor among the splendour and spicy aromas rise above the stench of sewage.

Monday 13 July 2009

IF – Hollow


The Hollow Men

~ T S Eliot ~

We are the hollow men

We are the stuffed men

Leaning together

Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!

Our dried voices, when

We whisper together

Are quiet and meaningless

As wind in dry grass.

Friday 10 July 2009

In Vino Veritas ~ A Mother/Daughter Collaboration


soliture.sometimes‘Solitude, sometimes’
Alexandra Edwards


Vermilion Reflections

by Tessa Edwards


 For seven long winters

I carried your picture around

in an old damp suitcase

and now you will be here

on Monday, at noontime.

Is it you that I remember

in your navy blue raincoat

coloured against November?

Did we walk together

through the stench of the Metro

and sit amongst dead butts

in those infernal cinemas?

Now clothed in wispy

garments of solitude

I wait for you to come

on Monday, at noontime.


It is just the rusted sundial

in the parched garden

which warns me lightly

that I still exist in this

place that is so familiar.

I am stifled by the tedium,

and suffer from the carnage

of memories which burn

and sear the core of me.

But I wait, and bake bread

and gather herbs and fresh figs

for us to eat on Monday

at noontime.


The flame trees are in flower now,

the evening pink flamingos settle

on the shores of placid lakes.

The room is large and moonlit,

with soft carpets from the Orient.

There are pools below which appear

like clouds of polarised light,

and they dim and recede

when the sun sinks low

and calls in the lonely night.

Did you know that

I am quieter now,

and more melancholy?

Or that this garnet liquid

with a constellation of reflections

cradled in its silver chalice

is my only succour now

until I melt in you again

on Monday, at noontime.


Oh, yikes! Well, it’s done now. That is my entry for a writing/poetry contest. (Beani, darling, thank you for the inspiration.)  Oof, it was hard.  Frankly, I think I’d rather stand naked on that Gormley plinth in Trafalgar Square than subject myself – as I’ve just done – to the rigours of literary scrutiny in the arena of poetry.

Goodness gracious me! There are some truly phenomenal writers and poets out there in our Blogworld. My bloggy friend Nicky of Absolute Vanilla – an exceptionally talented writer herself – gave us the heads-up about a writing contest which runs from July 8th until July 15th hosted by Jason Evans at The Clarity Of Night. The premise is to write a story or poem of not more than 250 words based on the phrase In Vino Veritas (Truth in Wine).

I’ve just been reading through all the entries so far and I would highly recommend that you do so as well – it’s astonishing (and not a little scary) how high the standard is and it makes for some genuinely riveting reading.

Actually, those of you whose blogs I follow so avidly all stand right up there with the best of literary talent, so why don’t you give it a go too, folks?  There is still a chance for you to enter a piece of fiction or poetry yourselves.  The contest doesn’t close until 15th July so it’s not too late and you have all weekend to compose your piece. G’on, you know you want to!  And it probably isn’t as terrifying as standing naked on a plinth, come to think of it.

Wednesday 8 July 2009

Appellation Angst



Still on the subject of book titles – previous post – I’ve got a challenge for you! See, the thing is I’ve written a novel. It’s all ready to be submitted, but I just can’t for the life of me think of a suitable title. Please may I ruffle your brain feathers just for a moment, dear bloggy friends, because mine are all damp and bedraggled. What do you think would be a suitable title for this book based on the synopsis below?

“David Cobbington's high profile job with the Jockey Club of South Africa draws him into a web of deceit and complicity, pitting him against a man who will induce the ultimate destruction of his comfortable life and his marriage to the spoilt, beautiful Catherine. Anton Medli is the man who becomes David's perfidious and relentless nemesis. The unctuous Corsican is a man for whom thoroughbred racing is both a business and a pleasure and whose only philosophy is money. Known in racing circles as The Meddler, he engineers not only the demolition of David's quiet gentlemanly existence, but eventually the lives of both his brother Kit and their influential and wealthy father.

With his marriage destroyed and the fast, spurious life of South African white society no longer attractive, David secures a senior position with The Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club and en route visits Kit who is in a similar role in racing in Kenya. David finds Medli has already insinuated himself into the racing circles of Nairobi and continues to manipulate one of his corrupt racing cohorts to intrude on Kit's life and that of his partner, the exotic and self-serving Princess Adina Tabor - or Didi as she is known to her friends and lover.

When the action shifts from the dusty high veldt of Johannesburg to the wild savannah of Kenya, it is in Nairobi where events escalate out of control. Intruders break into the house while David is alone one evening and he fires blindly into the night. Subsequently, the choices that the two brothers make, whether recklessly or judiciously, are irrevocable. David becomes trapped in a moral maze when both he and his brother step beyond the boundaries of the law because of the provocations of Anton Medli and his cohorts.

Finally, the narrative moves to the pulsating neon smeared high-rise bustle of Hong Kong. It is here, in the high stake speculative world of racing, that David and Medli warily circle each other while David tries desperately to protect his brother and father.”

The winning title (chosen by my editor, Charlotte Conley) gets his or her choice of book from the list in my previous post here.  G’on, give it a bash!


Monday 6 July 2009



Are you secretly seduced by the cover of a book…..


….or is it the title that whispers suggestively to you?


Of course, there are authors you grow to love and you wait avidly for the launch of their latest book,  but when you go into a favourite bookstore how do you make your selection while wandering in a state of bliss between the shelves and around the tables stacked high with literary delights? 

While I admire the graphics and artwork on many book covers, it is the title that does it for me.  Here are a few books I treasure whose titles whacked me right there in the middle of my hypothalamus and where the content was as profound and as memorable as it’s appellation.

dancing to the precipice

Dancing to the Precipice - Caroline Moorehead

An absorbing biography of Lucie de la Tour de Pin and the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.


Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God – Joe Coomer

Coomer crosses the gender line and speaks to the soul.


The Tree Where Man Was Born – Peter Matthiessen

The power of vast open spaces of Africa is tantalisingly balanced against a desperate fragility of a truly wild place.


The Blue Afternoon – William Boyd

Another masterpiece from the man who appears to have no end to his inventiveness, and no tell-tale style except perfection. It is an unforgettable tale of love found, lost then found again.

still love

Still Love in Strange Places – Beth Kephart

A rich and and hugely involving memoir, written with an acute and sensuous observation of memorable characters and evocative settings.


Pigs In Heaven – Barbara Kingsolver

Kingsolver, with a wonderful lightness of touch teaches us a lot about tolerance and seeking out the best in competing cultures while giving us a novel which is almost impossible to put down.


Skating to Antarctica – Jenny Diski

A voyage of self-discovery to the white emptiness that is painted as truth, despair, calm and madness - all at once.


A Dance to the Music of Time - Anthony Powell.

A literary mammoth – to be read little by little…..and savoured forever.


A Dry White Season – Andre Brink

Every so often you discover a writer who is so good you feel you have to read all his work. Brink is such a writer. His ability to disseminate the inherent prejudices and corruptions of South African politics is wondrous. I cannot rate this novel highly enough.


Lullabies for Little Criminals – Heather O’Neil

This is a deeply moving, luminously written and troubling novel exploring the dark side of urban life, where, all too easily, children are still left to struggle against impossible odds.


Ghost Train to the Eastern Star – Paul Theroux

Retracing a journey taken 30 years earlier, this is a brilliant chronicle of change and an exploration of how travel can sometimes be 'the saddest of pleasures'.


Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - John Berendt

Wildly funny, occasionally alarming and utterly enthralling – and infinitely better than the film.


The Earth Hums in B Flat - Mari Strachan

There is no sentimentality or mawkishness about this tale, merely lovely – often moving - story-telling.


Audrey Hepburn’s Neck – Alan Brown

A story of love and obsession and the clash of two wildly different cultures - this novel is a little gem.

**I’d love for you to share your favourites with us here in the comments - and whether you, too, are hooked by the title or if it’s the cover art that appeals to you first.**

Friday 3 July 2009

Illustration Friday – Shaky



dancer doodle

Despite a rather shaky start, she felt that the rehearsal had gone well.

Wednesday 1 July 2009

Jolly Boating Weather and Other Seaside Miscellany

It was indomitable Ada Louise Huxtable, architecture critic of the Wall Street Journal, who said ~ “Summer is the time when one sheds one's tensions with one's clothes, and the right kind of day is jewelled balm for the battered spirit. A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all's right with the world.”


And speaking of drunk, the first time I ever tasted Pimms I drank it fast, like a glass of delicious cooling fruit-juice. It wasn’t long after my second tall glass of this delicious summer nectar that I fell into the fish pond. But that is another story for another day.

I expect many of you have had a Pimms or two – and because you sipped it languidly, you probably behaved exceedingly well despite its hidden potency.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this strangely potent but wonderfully refreshing English drink, here is a little history of how Pimms came about and my own particular recipe for the nectar.

Pimm's was created in the 1840s by one James Pimm, a shell-fishmonger who owned a small chain of oyster bars in the City of London. In those days, foul-tasting unrefined gin was the thing, but Pimm felt that his clientele (and his oysters) deserved something better. Using gin, quinine and a secret mixture of herbs, good old Pimm served up the brew as an aid to digestion, dishing it out in pint tankards and the No. 1 Cup moniker was born.

Pimm's potion soon became more famous than his oyster bars and by the 1860s it was being sold throughout London for three shillings a bottle. After the Second World War, Pimms extended their range, using other spirits as bases for new cups. Scotch lent its name to No. 2 cup while No. 3 used brandy, No. 4 rum, No. 5 rye and No. 6 vodka. However, the original No. 1 cup still reigns supreme.


In a large bowl mix together, according to taste:

  • Bottle of Pimms No. 1
  • 75cl lemonade
  • 75cl ginger beer
  • 75cl soda water
  • ice
  • fresh mint leaves
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1 orange, thinly sliced
  • ½ cucumber, thinly sliced
  • strawberries, halved, to garnish

Splosh everything into a chilled jug and stir gently, pour into highball glasses and garnish each with a sprig of mint and a strawberry.


Guy and I went down to the pretty Georgian seaside town of Lymington last Saturday where we sat, after a day at sea, at a pub on the quay watching boats glide by like bejewelled dragonflies. I sipped my Pimms daintily while he drank his beer as all good Englishmen do, politely but with a certain gusto.


It was a hot, blue summer evening and the temperature felt more African than Anglo. While Guy gazed out to sea, dreaming of days on the water with his childhood friend and fellow adventurer, I had my sketch book in which I had intended to capture a pretty boating moment.


I took a photograph of the boats rather than drawing them because I felt I just couldn’t do the scene justice. Instead, I drew this.


“Cat on a Hot Thin Ruth”


Sailing the Solent – off Lymington.


Across the bay – Newhaven, Isle of Wright

cap'tn Anthony

Long-time friend Capt’n Anthony is a Lymington regular.


First Mate

jump ship

The crew jump ship – Beani & friends bound for the pub.


Safely docked and time for Pimms.