Category: Uncategorized
Oil Wells Pumping In My Living Room

PS: Due to a last minute cancellation, we have two spaces to fill on our Green Mountain Trail, checking in this Monday afternoon the 2nd of May. Would you like to join? Book here

PPS: Nine delightful Jozi and Durbs gals rolled in yesterday eve to walk the Green Mountain. Today they are hiking the Groenlandberg in lovely balmy weather.

Good Morning

Justice Edwin Cameron, retired Constitutional Court judge and Chancellor of Stellenbosch University shared gentle messages at a beautiful celebration of graduates two weeks back. Our second born Molly, graduating Honours in Geography and Environmental Studies, was one of the grads he spoke to about rejoicing at having completed their degrees in a torrid time, and the importance of the institutional centres of excellence in our beloved country. Alongside, Prof Anthony Leysens, Dean of Arts and Social Sciences added this thought, “We are what we are, through others”. We need to choose our others very carefully then.

Wilma Cruise is one of my chosen others. Her Recon(figure) show is at Is Art, Stellenbosch until the 31st of May. “The world has become a collapsing monument of humankind’s hubris and rapacious greed. The four horsemen of the apocalypse, War, Famine, Pestilence and Death, stride the Earth wreaking havoc. The rhetorical question implied by the title is, ‘How are we, animals and humans alike, going to manage our game at the end of the apocalyptic Anthropocene?”

Last Tuesday’s Monocle Minute’s ART/Close Encounters suggests that “Good art should transport you, drawing you out of yourself and introducing you to new ideas.”

In 2016 Francois Knoetze installed Bloed Trek alongside the Jakkals River which runs through the bottom of the gardens of Wildekrans Country House. Francois’ concept stated “My idea is to construct an abstract sculpture which references a Voortrekker ossewa. I would like to use invasive wood to form the armature, as well as black plastic. The structure may also include figures on the cart, as well as references to the cart being invaded by pests (rat/insect-like creatures).”

Francois’ friend Amy Louise Wilson joined him for a week of building here at Wildekrans Country House. Amy rehearsed for her role in Florian Zeller’s ‘The Father’ pacing the lawns down at the river. Bloed Trek was an adventurous work for us, we struggled with it. During construction I exclaimed at the horror of the pest creatures. In Amy Wilsons’ words “art is not always easy; it is not always pretty, and this is necessary because it draws from some of the difficult or unseen injustices that are going on”.

Dr Ashraf Jamal, author and art critic speaks of the work “An allusion to the Great Trek, the Dutch venture inland in search of a new world, the sculpture, however, also speaks to the bloody cost of such self-determination, baring testimony, for Knoetze, to ‘the brutal and often romanticised history of Dutch pastoral expansion’… Bloed Trek, …  performs the banality of horror, but also its monstrous yet quirky oddity, for on peering into the wagon we see cartoon-like white bodies neither dead nor alive but zomboid, plugged intravenously to an unending flow of black blood.”

Bloed Trek disintegrated over the years, as it was meant to. We will be resurrecting this piece through the photographs of David Ross.

Kristin Hjellegjerde’s upcoming London show is Celina Teague’s Nature Interrupted. Kristin writes ‘The work Still I Rise (pictured), was made when Teague was listening to reports of the conflict in Afghanistan and specifically in relation to the oppression of women. However, instead of choosing to focus on the bleakness of the situation, Teague’s perspective is one of hope, vitality and strength. In the painting, women dressed in blue burqas appear like flowers blooming at the end of tall lush vines, the winding, interconnected stems suggesting a sense of quiet solidarity.’

Molly drew my attention to the title’s namesake, Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise (full poem at end)

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

With love,

PPPS: Living in these Kogelberg Biosphere mountains, I wake most mornings feeling like ‘I’ve got oil wells pumping in my living room’.

PPPPS: Forty years ago, my Stellenbosch class graduated under BJ Vorster, wasn’t Molly the lucky one?

Maya Angelou – STILL I RISE

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.


Marmite In The Grocery Cupboard

Good Morning

When both we, and the abundant bird life, have stripped our fig trees, we know that the seasons are a changing. It all happens at once here, ripe figs, brinjals and tomatoes. Fortunately the almonds, also harvested this week, can be treasured until the next 2023 harvest. We do our best to hoard marinated brinjals, tomato passata, and fig jam, for the year ahead. Despite our handy “catty” (catapult from a Villiersdorp street vendor) and cup of acorns, we seem incapable of scaring the birds away.

Anticipating the cooler evenings that autumn brings, I took a trip to our local butcher on Saturday morning seeking beef shin for this week’s group of mostly Jozi gals. This group of friends walked the Green Mountain Trail last year, and have returned to walk the Blue Mountain Trail.

Chef and chief housekeeper, Annie Olckers, makes  Ossobucco Bianco from The River Café Blue. The Sauvignon Blanc and anchovies (instead of tomatoes) give it a different taste altogether. Annie has kindly saved us from a feline war by taking home Basil and Sage, who you met a few weeks ago. Our firmly entrenched Kitsy was having nothing of this cute little twosome moving in and she has, I am afraid to say, gotten her way. While we are very sad, Kitsy, Annie and Annie’s eighty eight year old Mum are all delighted.

Our Green and Blue Mountain Trails are now open for the 2022/3 season. Come August, we are expecting magnificent post fire fynbos. Book here

The changing seasons seem to also bring the Grey Heron to our side of Houw Hoek more. This Sunday morning we were circled by a pair which brought great happiness as the solitariness of this bird can be saddening. The Grey Heron has for us always been a symbol of my father’s passing, four years back. Sightings bring joyful memories. According to the data of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 2019, the global population of Grey Heron stands at 500,000-2,500,000 mature individuals.

Pausing enables a learning of the multitude of connections that surround us. Last week one hiker, Michael Eddles, took a close look at my father’s 1945 Rugby Senior A, Rondebosch School photograph and pointed out his father-in-law, JPG Du Plessis, the stepdad of his special wife, Colleen. When checking the guest house register a couple of years back, I discovered that the Johannesburgers overnighting, were at that time living in our X- 127 2nd Ave Melville home. The mystery of coincidence is surely that, on that occasion, you allowed the time for discovery. It begs the question of how much we might just miss when rushing about.

We will be heading to Langebaan Beach Cottage for our Easter weekend. It’s the simplicity of the cottage and the refuge it provides against the afternoon winds (making Langebaan internationally famous for kite surfing) that we love. What is also exciting, is that I know we have a large jar of Marmite in the grocery cupboard. If you too have forgotten the taste due to post lockdown shortages, the Guardian calls it a “yeasty, salty, soy sauce-esque flavor with the consistency of old engine oil”.

Book here for your own west coast weekend.

Sending love for a special, whatever your particular, holiday time, contemplating and allowing time to take in your surrounds.

Husain and Hasan Essop’s Facing Qiblah 2009 is a favourite quietening image. This work was shown at a Goodman Gallery show entitled HALAAL ART, in 2010. It is a dream of mine to own one of the edition of eight but in the meantime the image included in the invitation (15 by 21 cm) suffices, hanging in my workspace.

May love and chocolate abound,

PS: Have you tasted the Ou Meul Hot Cross buns? Game changers.

PPS: I am super well kitted for a beach weekend as artist Patsy Groll has gifted me a BUTTONWEAR swim hoodie.  I suspect people wear them all over Cape Town, post their cold water therapy swims.

PPPS: If you perhaps know the location of an original Facing Qiblah, please let me know, I would love to see the work in reality.


A Kind Word

Good Morning

Last week I took a few pics, to help with directions, for those trying to find Casa di Simonetta. Adine is a hamlet in the centre of Chianti, consisting of a handful of properties, dating back to the 11th Century. At the time of the 2001 census the population was 13, I don’t think it’s changed! Adine is now in the very early days of spring and this magnificent almond tree (pictured) is in blossom at the entrance to the village.

The reason for my early March trip was to meet with our lovely building contractor, Matteo Sandrelli, on the final design points of our “piccola piscina”. Barry Gould, the architect (my one and only), is behind the “non intrusive and site-specific to this ancient property” design. Me, the messenger. The quick visit was also, to prepare the property for an American family hosting a wedding in Florence. The family walked the Green Mountain Trail in 2017 and have subsequently become regulars at Wildekrans Country House.

En route to Italy, I was reminded of my enormous love for the tunes of Joan Armatrading while watching an in flight feature, filmed at Asylum Chapel, London last year. I collected every album produced by Joan Armatrading in the late seventies. This love is shared with Keith Kirsten, who invited us to join him at a live concert in Johannesburg in 2016. It was my second Armatrading concert. Soon after my arrival at UC Berkeley in 1985, she played at the Greek Theatre alongside my res.

Last year, at the age of 70, Joan Armatrading released a new album, CONSEQUENCES. The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis’ album of the week column said “Consequences essays pop head on, without for a second sounding like a heritage artist trying to glom on to current trends. Natural Rhythm, Already There, and Like, sparkle because they’ve got the kind of melodies that people pay teams of Nordic songwriters fortunes to painstakingly devise: moreover, they fit her voice, always more strident and powerful than you might expect given the sensitive singer-songwriter tag.

A critical elevation of her work would be welcome and just, but it’s worth pointing out that Armatrading herself seems perfectly content where she is. “Some people sit in their ivory tower with the Midas touch,” she sings on Better Life, “A kind word has more healing power / It’s precious.” 

I experienced extreme kindness on my way home from Italy. While in transit I discovered that I had left my iPad on the Roma/Doha flight. Islam took it upon himself to have the iPad collected from the aeroplane by car. My flight to Cape Town was leaving and I felt compelled to give up. While rushing to my gate I heard a voice behind me calling calling “Ma’am, Ma’am”. Islam arrived, my iPad under his arm and completely out of breath. I asked him what I could do to thank him. He offered his employee number, 64801. I have written a letter of thanks. Islam is one of more than 50 000 Qatar employees.

On Friday I attended the celebration of a family friend’s life. He had died unexpectedly and many that knew him gathered at the invitation of his beautiful wife and two children. His children and three besties spoke. One line has especially stayed with me. It’s the line from Tuesdays with Morrie “Do what the Buddhists do. Every day, have a little bird on your shoulder that asks ‘Is today the day? Am I ready? Am I doing all I need to do? Am I being the person I want to be?… Is today the day I die?… “

On Thursday evening Christy Loedolff pulled off yet another super evening at Liberty Books. She interviewed authors Cathy Park Kelly (Boiling a Frog Slowly) and Penny Haw (The Wilderness Between Us). Christy talked about Sylvia Plath’s KINDNESS. When looking for that poem over the weekend, I was reminded of this one by Naomi Shihab Nye (1952).

KINDNESS

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

With love,

PS:  I spent Sunday reading Penny Haw’s The Wilderness Between Us. Read it. It’s about many things including the power of the wilderness, which we celebrate every day on our trails. We have spaces on our 28 March (6), 11 April (4) and 18 April (2) trails. Book Here

PPS: Of course I need to remind you that Liberty Books was also designed by none other than Barry Gould, the architect.

PPPS: Had to check on the meaning of Midas Touch – the ability to make money out of anything one undertakes.


I Think I Did Not Do So Badly

Good Morning

Paolo Sorrentino’s The Hand of God (2021) is an autobiographical drama about growing up in Naples. The title refers to the history of soccer. The movie references a visit by Federico Fellini to Naples to shoot his next film. Fellini is alleged to have expressed that the only use for movies, is a distraction from reality because “reality is lousy”.

A.O. Scott’s review in the New York Times (14.12.21) raises the question “Do movies distract from the lousiness of reality or try to redeem it, alchemizing its awfulness into beauty?” Paolo Sorrentino said on this “It’s realistic … that was my family. The reality of the eighties, of the south, of families on Sundays in summer, where everybody feels himself like an actor, is something that belongs to our tradition.” Monocle interview, December 2021.

This last week, our Green Mountain Trail team were once again treated to being on the periphery of a four day conversation between life loving friends who seem to have walked a long road of life’s realities together. “We walked and talked and ate and drank, and had the most wonderful time”, was their parting note.

In the midst of Jill Trappler’s EXPLORING TOUCH, when walking from the art studio to the Wildekrans Country House Homestead for dinner, artist Ettie Flax turned and ‘saw’ this view. The following morning, Ettie set herself up under an umbrella and spent hours building this image.

Returning to the world of movies, in January, actor, producer, writer and friend, Neil McCarthy took a drive with his sister Diane, past their old family home. Neil discovered his now grown up yellowwood tree (pictured below). “It was the fifth anniversary of the founding of the Republic. I was eight years old, in Standard 1 at SACS in Newlands, Cape Town. Everyone at school was given a South African flag on a little flagpole and you got to choose a tree from a table of tiny indigenous seedlings in rusty jam tins.

I chose a yellowwood seedling because the city had recently planted a row of yellowwoods in the centre of the new highway, Paradise Rd, right outside my grandparents house. I remember my grandfather saying to me that yellowwood trees were slow growers and that ‘by the time these trees are big, I will be dead, and you will be an old man’. This made me realize that this was a very important tree.”

Gosh, if one had only done that one thing in life, of adding a wondrous tree, I think you could feel content.

The Hand of God opens with a quote from the late Diego Armando Maradona.

“I did what I could. I think I did not do so badly.”

With love,

PS: We have space for one or two on a special 25 February weekend Green Mountain Trail. Book here

PPS: If you  have not yet seen this beautiful, sad and quirky movie, The Hand of God, it is on Netflix.


Let’s Start a Brand New Story

Good Morning

Clergyman and author Fergus Butler-Gallie’s piece on humour, for Monocle, caught my eye this weekend.

“The 2020’s gifts of continuing plague, looming war and widespread societal venom might not seem to be the obvious launching – off points for laughter. Bad times make for good jokes. Humour is not just an effective coping mechanism but an essential attribute to an increasing dog-eat-dog world.” 27 January 2022, The Monocle Minute.

For the last ninety six Sunday nights, me, UC Berkeley friend, Katherine Wessling (NYC), and high school and Stellenbosch University friend, Di McCarthy (Jozi), have shared laughter and tears. We started a sixty minute Zoom chat at the end of March 2020 and have never stopped this ritual of sharing life’s highs and lows. Last weekend Katherine shared how her elderly father Bob was making a very strange noise while eating his salad. 

Katherine: “What is that you are eating Dad?”
Bob: “I don’t know, but I don’t like it.” (continues crunching with pained expression)
Katherine: “I think you should spit it out Dad”

Bob spits out his lettuce mixed with what remains of his hearing aid.

Following morning.

Bob: “Where is my right hearing aid?”
Katherine: “You ate it Dad!”
Bob: “I Whaaat?”

Over the twenty two years of living in Houw Hoek, cats and kittens have been gifted to us anonymously. We have found them on the doorstep and in the gardens. Most recently a mum cat, whom we have never seen again, left us with two little darling Tom cats (Basil and Sage), they too make us smile.

This weekend brought a delightful three generational family to celebrate one of four children’s sixtieth birthday. The lucky birthday girl’s almost eighty nine year old father hosted a picnic lunch for her, her children, family and friends, in the gardens of Wildekrans Country House. Laughter, story tellers and stories were in abundance.

We are feeling thoroughly spoilt as our year has begun with exciting people, cute creatures and heart  warming events. This weekend brings artists from the top and bottom ends of SA to work with Jill Trappler on EXPLORING TOUCH. We are overbooked and can’t wait.

Two and a bit years back, my late mum, Roma,  joined us for my 60th birthday celebration in these gardens. I had found a vinyl DJ and asked each guest to nominate their favourite track. Roma’s track was the Bee Gees’ WORDS (1967).

“Smile an everlasting smile
A smile can bring you near to me
Don’t ever let me find you down
‘Cause that would bring a tear to me

This world has lost its glory
Let’s start a brand new story now, my love
Right now, there’ll be no other time
And I can show you how, my love”

With love,

PS: We have a few spaces on our 28 March Green Mountain Trail. Join here, you’ll love it.

PPS: Words is a song by the Bee Gees, written by Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb. The song reached No. 1 in Germany, Canada, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Recorded: 3 October 1967. Songwriter(s): Barry Gibb; ‎Robin Gibb‎; ‎Maurice. Released: January 1968. Genre: Pop. Wikipedia.


The Centre Will Not Hold

PS: We have one space (or two sharing) available for Jill Trappler’s art weekend retreat – EXPLORING TOUCH, Friday 4 February 2022. Book here

Good Morning

The Centre Will Not Hold (2017), produced by the late Joan Didion’s nephew Griffin Dunne, is an interview documentary that can be watched time and again. Joan Didion’s wisdom always inspires. Writer and art critic Hilton Als says, “The weirdness of America got into her bones and came out on the other side of a typewriter”.

Being the Mom of two daughters at early stages of their working lives keeps me alert to the extraordinary career path tales of others.  I am especially interested in the role of chance.

Joan Didion’s mother put the details of a Vogue essay writing contest in front of her then high school daughter, saying “You could win that and live wherever you wanted. But definitely you could win it.” In her Senior year at Berkeley (1956), Joan Didion won the Vogue essay writing contest and moved to New York City to join the editorial staff.

A few years later (1961), a Vogue cover piece on self-respect by another writer never materialised, and Joan Didion was asked to fill the gap. She set about writing “Self-respect: Its Source, Its Power”. A small excerpt of this, her first published piece, is included at the end. Read the full piece online, she was just twenty seven years old.

Our last born, Molly, gave me a copy of SOUTH AND WEST for my birthday, just two days before Joan Didion’s passing on 23 December 2021. It is a notebook recording her month-long road trip through the American South. I love reading Joan Didion. A favourite piece is “It is easy to see the beginning of things and harder to see the ends. I can remember now with a clarity that makes the nerves in the back of my neck constrict, when New York began for me, but I cannot lay a finger on the moment it ended… It is distinctly possible to stay too long at the fair.” – Goodbye To All That by Joan Didion

This week brought the passing of Katriena Rosina Wildschutt (1935 – 2022), mother to Rose Kroukamp and Richard Wildschutt. Many of you will remember Rose from Wildekrans Country House, having tasted her carrot cake, rusks, homemade lemonade and marmalade. Each summer, Aunty Kate proudly presented Wildekrans Country House with her homegrown Dahlias (pictured). This Saturday the Overberg community of St Mary’s Church, Houw Hoek, gathered to lay Aunty Kate to rest. Gerald Siljeur’s eulogy spoke to Katriena’s legacy and how, through mostly her actions alone, the historic Houw Hoek Church lives on.

The foresight of our forefathers has left us with their legacy, the Kogelberg Biosphere. What a joy to begin the year with hikers from across the globe. This last week we were treated to the company of Canadians, Hollanders and Gautengers. We are of course potentially all the same, but perhaps it’s our very different contexts that make us different. I learnt that Canadians are kept awake at night by climate change, as well as Biden’s lack of sensitivity to the sustainability of Canada’s automotive industry. I learnt that Hollanders are disturbed by an increasing lack of tolerance for age old Dutch tradition.

Joan Didion’s words on this topic. “I was born in Sacramento and lived in California most of my life… Don’t you think sometimes people are formed by the landscape they grow up in? It formed everything I ever think or do or am.”

With love,

PPS: To join another hiking group, Hike South Africa, in the weeks of 31 January, 7 February, 14 or 28 March 2022. Hiking outside Cape Town. Book here

PPPS: These words are from Joan Didion’s Self-respect: Its Source, Its Power“To live without self-respect is to lie awake some night, beyond the reach of warm milk, phenobarbital, and the sleeping hand on the coverlet, counting up the sins of commission and omission, the trusts betrayed, the promises subtly broken, the gifts irrevocably wasted through sloth or cowardice or carelessness. However long we postpone it, we eventually lie down alone in that notoriously un-comfortable bed, the one we make ourselves. Whether or not we sleep in it depends, of course, on whether or not we respect ourselves.”


You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Good Morning

Monocle’s Chiara Rimella is the source of my 2022 commitments. On Christmas Eve she shared that “Ultimately, it’s the things that meant the most to us that will stick. And if there’s one lesson that we should have learnt in 2021, it’s to embrace the things that really matter to us – and not to fret about the rest.”

My first 2022 embrace is of the teachings of artist Jill Trappler. The weekend of the 4th of February will bring Jill Trappler’s art workshop, EXPLORING TOUCH, to Wildekrans Country House. We have four spaces available. Jill chose this work (pictured below), as the signature for this workshop, because “Bill Ainslie allows for the materials to participate in the process of finding an image.”

To be said of such weekend, is that both beginners and experienced participants will extend their skills. This is the fourth Trappler workshop at Wildekrans Country House. You will explore how your hands and fingers respond to various materials. You will explore how these materials, plus light and music touch you, increasing your skills and ideas as you build images in new waysPerhaps I’ll get to play my all time fave Rolling Stones’ you can’t always get what you want, but if you try, sometimes you get what you need (the second part to my 2022 commitment).

The next thing to be said is that the weekend begins after lunch on Friday the 4th of February, and ends after breakfast on Monday morning (or late Sunday). The context of the teaching includes both the gardens and art collection of Wildekrans Country House, interspersed with our country style home cooking.

The third thing to be said is that you will take away a multitude of tools and perhaps have confirmed what not to fret about through the year ahead.

In Josie Grindrod’s words, “Jill Trappler is a highly respected South African artist, teacher and facilitator. I first experienced her in that role at her esteemed uncle Bill Ainslie’s Johannesburg Art Foundation. I’ve attended a number of her workshops; Jill’s intuitive yet informed approach to material and creative practise means she is able to meet any student where they are at, with gentle yet incisive suggestions regarding areas to explore or develop further.” Book here.

Jill Trappler’s thoughts on where we find ourselves today are reflected in the Ira Byock post below:

“Years ago, anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about fishhooks or clays or grinding stones.

But no. Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food. You are meat for prowling beasts.  No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal.

A broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts, Mead said.

We are at our best when we serve others.”

With love,


From What Remains

PS: Jill Trappler will be teaching at Wildekrans Country House through the weekend of the 4th, 5th and 6th of February. This art workshop will focus on Exploring Touch. Book here for one of the eight spaces.

Good Morning

The Michaelis School of Fine Art 2021 Grad Show has now closed. You can view the art works of the fifty two graduates online, a privilege to visit and a privilege to revisit here at home. I love wandering the halls of Hiddingh Campus before Christmas. It’s the closest I’ll ever get to being an art student. This year was a little different with a more compact showing, intensely curated in one corner of the campus.

My take away is a strong sense of searches for identity and hope, and cries to take better care of our world. Peeking into the heads of these mostly twenty-something creatives, is an immersion into contemporary thought. In the words of graduate Ruby Wheeldon “..I can learn that my current perception of what the future will be is in fact not set in stone, and that there are multiple ways of creating a far more hopeful future”. I am still puzzling over Ariel Taverner’s Purposeful Prettiness. Daniel Tucker’s From What Remains, stopped me in my tracks. A body of work “of ecological concern – specifically the relationships between people, industry, and the environment. .. a critique of industrial scale agriculture and irrigation in the Overberg region”. Daniel’s catalogue includes Sophie Cope’s compelling Hope in the Aftermath. Central Tableau is pictured above. I do hope Daniel Tucker’s From What Remains will be shown again somewhere.

When I find myself waiting to see a doctor (happens) or lawyer (seldom happens), my mind ponders on why in career counselling,  no one advises that these two professions wait for nobody, one always waits for them. Living at Wildekrans Country House (the medical rooms and home of Dr Taylor in my childhood days), brings many delights right to our door. Last week we were visited by a Max and Tania. After some chats we discovered that Max is the son of artist Leigh Voigt (Lulu phezulu). And that Max’s father is Harold Voigt, the oil painter of many extraordinary still lifes. Harold can be seen here below resting under our Melaleuca tree in 2015. Max is an architect living in Cape Town while working “in” San Francisco. He lent me a beautiful book on his father’s work. It refers to a quote his Dad found truth in, by Churchill: “that we start by shaping our dwellings and afterwards our dwellings shape us”. Beware the dwelling you choose and shape.

On the Day of Reconciliation, we learnt about Tabula Rasa and the Groenlandberg wines of Oak Valley. Christopher Rawbone Viljoen spoke passionately about their family’s care of the lands of this diverse farm backed up against the Groenlandberg mountains. Tabula Rasa means a clean slate, an approach without preconceived ideas. Our Green Mountain Trail walkers are privileged to walk through this farm that focuses intensely on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. We tasted the Tabula Rasa CY548 2017 and CY95 2017, strikingly delicious and different. These are the two single clone, single vineyard, components of the Groenlandberg Chardonnay. Similarly the Pinot Noir 777 and 115, make up the Groenlandberg Pinot Noir. We tasted the 2018. All of this in the great company of Christopher and his mother, Madeleine, together with the Melting Pot’s Thai Steamed Fish, Five Spice Roast Duck Breast and Coconut Panna Cotta. Treat yourself to this farm’s food and wine tasting experience pool side. We have one or two last minute spaces available on our 10 January 2022 Green Mountain Trail. Book here.

Yesterday I took this pic of the anticipated 2022 pear harvest on our neighbour Dave’s farm. Dave Evans turned eighty this weekend, Paul Cluver turned eighty two weeks ago, Niekie Rust turns eighty in January. Treasured friendships with these three farmers, all born into the time when America joined the Second World War.

In a last of 2021 yoga at sunrise, our reading was the late American writer and artist Agnes M Pharo’s, What is Christmas?

It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future.

It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.

With love,

PPS: Mark Steyn’s (2011) comment amused me. The Agnes M. Pharo? A writer of such eminence that even the otherwise open-to-all-comers Wikipedia has no entry for her.

PPPS: You can read Renee Rust (wife of Niekie)’s beautiful account of her month and a half at Casa di Simonetta here.


Palimpsest

PS: walk a three day guided hike from 20 December on our Green Mountain Trail, experiencing fynbos, passionate guides, country food, Paardenkloof, Paul Cluver and Beaumont Wines. Book here

Good Morning

Palimpsest is a (hard to say) word that I have learnt from art reviews. It is commonly defined as “a manuscript in which later writing has been superimposed on earlier (effaced) writing. In other words, a palimpsest is a multi-layered record.”

The works of William Kentridge are filled with palimpsests. A few weeks back I drove to Rome while visiting Chianti. The main purpose being to visit Simonetta Palazio, who restored, now our, Casa di Simonetta. Of course, while there, I took a walk to the Tiber River to revisit William Kentridge’s TRIUMPHS AND LAMENTS (2016). Perhaps I confused the bridges, but the work was nowhere to be seen. The city grime and moss have possibly once again overlayed this 500m space. Through kentridge.studio you can relive this exciting project. Kentridge says “This was done in the knowledge that over a few years the images would fade away. The wall would darken again, through natural ageing, pollutants, graffiti; leaving a ghost of an image and a fading memory.”

I had dinner that night with Flavia Ricci at La Cisterna in Trastevere. What a joy to be in the company of a a born and bred Roman, in Rome. Flavia high schooled in Trastevere, just around the corner from the spot she chose for dinner. Seeking hiking trails South Africa, she walked the Green Mountain Trail in 2019 and has stayed in touch. Flavia had their signature Carbonara, me the Papardella zucchini flowers. It was undoubtedly the best pasta I have ever eaten.

Wildekrans Country House is in itself a palimpsest, having been layered by a multitude of owners since its first in 1811. Our projects only reflect the layers of the last twenty two, of more than two hundred years. Too many projects to list, but the first that come to mind are reusing, my mother, Roma’s rose supports on the front elevation to support wisteria (pictured), taking out the old pear orchard but leaving six behind, adding a sculpture to the garden in most years, this year repainting the shutters in their rich historical black green.

Having myself mastered in project management, finding the straightest line between A and B used to be my thing. Not so, when your life partner is an architect of the old school, carefully considering what went before, before installing new overlays. Living with Barry and art has balanced my inexhaustible search for efficiency. In the words of artist Wendimagen Belete “art can liberate new ways of seeing”.

In 2015 Site_Specific, a group of artists dedicated to land and nature art in South Africa, left this work (pictured above) as a gift, after a week of art making here. The image is of us five Green girls photographed in 1963, and used in 2007, to label  a Wildekrans Cap Classique. This, in celebration of our family’s consolidation to Houw Hoek, through my father selling Keerweer Farm, home to Wildekrans Wines.

There are a multitude of reasons for you to immerse yourself in the layers that make Wildekrans Country House what it is. Use our space this holiday to inspire fresh perspectives on your 2022, and to find the nostalgia in you. Have a close to nature holiday walking in the Biosphere and eating straight from the veggie garden. The 19th Century farmhouse has an urban sensibility while syncing with it’s history. Our address book for a great few days here includes Liberty Books (read), Compagniesdrift (eat and wine taste), Kogelberg Biosphere (walk in the fynbos), Wildekrans Country House (cook and live with art), De Rust Estate (eat and cider/wine taste). We have “Boris Johnson” special rates for the days of business we have lost in the latest shutdown. Book here

Times feel so very difficult. I am trying my best to believe The Hollies’ all I need is the air that I breathe. More compelling is the Moody Blues’ I’m looking for a miracle in my life. Instead, I am banking on Ilan Shamir’s ‘Advice from a Tree’

Feel the wind and the sun
And delight in their presence
Look up at the moon that shines down upon you
And the mystery of the stars at night.
Seek nourishment from the good things in life
Simple pleasures
Earth, fresh air, light

With love,


Black Olives

Good Morning

In April 2020, when Wildekrans Country House’s olive team was safely at home, our family of four were left to harvest the one hundred odd trees planted by us twenty years ago. Not being skilled at the task, we were not speedy, threatening our appointment at the Anysbos press, first thing the following day. When darkness closed in, husband Barry cut off the unharvested branches, carrying them to the light of the kitchen, where we were able to pull off those remaining.

Chianti’s olives ripened later this year, enabling me to exercise my new skill for a day. This time in full gorgeous autumnal Chianti light, followed by the journey to our chosen press, en route to Arezzo. All the chat this week has been around comparing kg’s harvested and how these compared to last year, which in our area was horrid due to an untimely and vicious frost.

Friends, Mimma and Franco Ferrando, expressed that their reduced loot was ‘non importante’ as olives are about oil for family and friends, and your olive trees are merely an extension of your home. This is well illustrated by the property just above us. Andrea Borghi lives between Adine and Siena where he works in the banking sector. When not banking, you will see him pacing on his terrace where he practices his passion for drama.

We hope you will share in some of this dolce vita next year. Stay at Casa di Simonetta, you can be one or eight or anything in between. We are in the process of building a small swimming pool. Chianti permissions take time and strictly control the Etruscan heritage, hence the sustained beauty. Very little has changed in twenty years. Enquire here

If traveling abroad is not part of your plan, the sweet life can be experienced right here at Wildekrans Country House. We are walking the Blue Mountain this week. We have spaces on our 20 December Green Mountain. But you don’t have to walk to rest here.  Book here

Michael Waters’ Black Olives was published in 2006. I had never read his poetry, it can be addictive. It is possibly dark, save for a robust day.

In those days while my then-wife
taught English to a mustached young nurse who hoped to join
her uncle’s practice in Queens,
I’d sip gin on our balcony and listen to her
read aloud from the phrasebook,
then hear the student mimic, slowly, Where does it hurt?

then my wife repeat those words
so the woman might enunciate each syllable,
until I could no longer
bear it, so I’d prowl the Ambelokipi district
attempting to decipher
titles emblazoned on marquees—My Life As A Dog,
Runaway Train, Raging Bull—
then stroll past dark shops that still sold only one item—
kerosene, soap, cheese, notebooks—
to step down into the shop that sold olives, only
olives in barrels riddling
a labyrinth of dank aisles and buttressing brick walls.
I’d sidle among squat drums,
fingering the fruit, thumbing their inky shine, their rucked
skins like blistered fingertips,
their plump flesh, the rough salts needling them, judging their cowled heft, biding my time. Always
I’d select a half-kilo of the most misshapen,
wrinkled and blackest olives
sprung from the sacred rubble below Mt. Athos, then
had to shout “Fuck Kissinger!”
three times before the proprietor would allow me
to make my purchase, then step
back out into the smut-stirred Athens night to begin
the slow stroll home, bearing now
my little sack of woe, oil seeping through brown paper,
each olive brought toward my mouth
mirroring lights flung from marquees and speeding taxis,
each olive burning its coal-
flame of bitterness and history into my tongue.

With love,

PS: Taste our Chianti and Houw Hoek olive oils when staying at our four star TGCSA graded accommodation in the Elgin Valley.