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Over the rooftops

2-roof_0010a

The ripple earthy-red of clay-tiled rooftops is a visual that will always take me back to Sao Paulo. Yes, it’s found in other cities, towns and villages of Brazil and in many other countries, but Sao Paulo was such a huge part of my personal journey, that my thoughts go there.

What you’re looking at here are two houses. The tall house on the one side and it’s neighbour, glued to its side. It’s typical of housing layouts in much of Brazil. There is no space between the houses, which are long and narrow, often a series of rooms stacked one behind the other with connecting doors. It’s rare to find a passage.

I love skies and clouds and cloudy skies. I have far too many photos scattered through my albums of clouds, but what I’ve noticed is that many of them are where I’m in a confined area gazing out. It’s a pattern that’s repeated itself over and over from childhood. I was the child who had “… would do far better if she didn’t spend her days gazing out the window” or “…daydreams too much” in almost every school report, particularly the early years. I think much of that dreamer still exists. There’s many a time I find myself gazing at the horizon, thankfully, usually not from a confined space.

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Posted by on December 16, 2013 in challenge, memories, photography, sao-paulo

 

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He preached with his eyes closed

Yes, he did indeed preach with his eyes closed, but that was the least of what made Father Brennan unique. I remember the first time I met him very clearly. Jurgis and I had started dating. He decided to take me to the little (make that ‘tiny’) Catholic church in our neighbourhood just so that I could see it. I’d never been to a Catholic church before.

St Vincent's Catholic Church - Algoa Park

It was indeed a tiny church, two narrow rows of pews. Not the kind of church you can lose yourself or be inconspicuous in. To say Father Brennan was remarkable would be an understatement. Jurgis’ family were Catholic, by long-standing national/family tradition and purely in name, barely making it to church for the requisite christenings, marriages or funerals. Jurgis himself had probably only set foot in that little church a couple of times… and yet, Father B (to save me typing out his name each time) remembered him.

We walked in and found ourselves mid-church seats, neither of us being eager to attract attention. Jurgis hadn’t been in ages and I was out of my depth, not knowing what to do with all that ritual that everyone seemed to have been born knowing. I was just figuring out when to kneel, when to stand, when to open the little prayer book and flap around looking for the right words (often ending up on the wrong page and pretending I knew what I was saying) when the collection was taken up. Now I’m familiar with collections. All churches have them in one form or another. I’m even familiar with the ‘turn around and greet your neighbour’ bit. What I wasn’t prepared for was Father B himself. He swept down from his pulpit and stopped to chat with each member of the congregation. Yes, there were that ‘many’. He approached us and I prepared myself for the “Hello, nice to meet you.” What I got was more along the lines of “Faith! And it’s good to meet your future wife! You’ll be coming here for the wedding, won’t you?” Father B was an Irishman with a voice designed for cathedrals, not tiny churches with 20 occupants. Every face in the little church turned to watch his sheer pleasure at our impending nuptials we knew nothing about at the time.

That wasn’t the end of my experience of the dear Father. The sermon was yet to come. He stood, hands folded across the front of his chest, closed his eyes and swayed slightly… back and forth… back and forth. I thought he was preparing himself or offering some sort of internal blessing, but the entire sermon was delivered like that! I was so fascinated, I don’t remember a word of the sermon. Ok, that and the fact that it is now many many years ago.

Fast forward a time and a half. We went back to Father B’s tiny church after our engagement, perhaps to show him that his prophesying was indeed accurate. “Faith and you’ll surely be bringing the little ones here to be christened?” Uh huh. Definitely! We laughed all the way home.

On hindsight, we should have gotten married in that little church. I think our memories of our wedding would have been very different. As it was, we got married in a vast cathedral in town – a place not one of us enjoyed and came fraught with its own politics and issues. If I have any advice for anyone considering their nuptials it would be to find themselves a Father B and avoid the grandeur of vast halls. Sadly, we never saw him again, but he definitely left his mark on our memories.

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2013 in memories

 

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Sunday Memories

I was feeling a little nostalgic anyway, playing with Overenthusiastic-Odie….

odieI gots a stick, I has!

I miss having my own dogs around. Luckily, I have an abundance of dogs and other critters who make me smile here. I spent yesterday playing with Lupa, a rather goofy 7 month old German Shepherd.

lupaI want to let go, so you can throw it, but tug-o-war is so much fun!

We don’t work weekends. Really. Honestly. Ok, sometimes. Thing is, farming’s like that. You’ve read ‘Animal Farm’, right? Today’s politics involved the chickens. You’ve met the existing chickens… Now meet the newbies!

chooks

These arrived here with warnings that they were wild and could fly and liked to sit in the trees. Um… ok… We clipped their wings, put them in the hen house and set about trying to make friends with them. A couple of weeks later, they no longer squeeze themselves into the corner to get away and they do come forward when greens are offered, but… they fly! They fly to the window sill with their clipped wings (to clarify – only one side, before anyone tells me we did it all wrong).

Today, we got another addition to the flock, Crocky’s sister, who looks a lot like that feather duster. She was put in with the other chickens by her now-ex-owner, only to be pecked on, so she was moved in with the frightened newbie group. We plan to try and put the whole lot with the old birds tomorrow. On Wednesday (or thereabouts), the new chicks should hatch. That’ll add another dimension to the whole drama. This should be an interesting week!

I’m now sitting here over my cup of dandelion and lemon balm tea with a wee drappie of honey. It’s delicious! I was feeling a little under the weather this past week. Hopefully this will give me the Oomph! that went missing.

I wanted to show Jurgis a video and was looking through my files with pictures of South Africa when we had a bit of a discussion about the location of a remembered landmark in our home town. That took us to Google Maps. I’d have lost a few kilos if I’d walked the distance we covered this afternoon :)

I’ve come to the conclusion that I had an idyllic childhood. How many children get to go to school in a school as full of character as this one. This is the old Albert Jackson Primary School. Its walls were solid stone and thick. It breathed history, but was bright and cheerful. It looked no different to the way it looks now (the building is protected by heritage laws), though it’s been many, many years since it held any children.

Albert Jackson Primary School (modern)

Albert Jackson had no playground of its own, so, at break time, we’d all line up and cross the road ‘crocodile’ fashion to the Donkin. Now can you imagine a nicer playground for school breaks? A view of the ocean, vast lawns, funky monuments and plenty of pigeons to absorb the lunch crumbs.

Donkin

The Donkin is named after Sir Rufane Donkin, governor of Port Elizabeth in 1820, when the British settlers landed. The unusual pyramid next to the lighthouse is a monument to his wife. I thought the story to be really sweet:

“His life is also one of romance and undying love. He married Elizabeth Markham in Yorkshire under a traditional organised marriage which was the custom in those times for the social upper classes. But Sir Rufane Donkin truly fell in love with his beautiful young wife. In most cases the wives of high ranking military officials stayed at home while their husbands were abroad. However Elizabeth Donkin chose to be with her husband and travelled with him to India where she was to become seriously ill, and died in August 1818 after their first son George David was born.

The effect on Sir Rufane Donkin after her death was immense, and to such an extent was placed on leave from his post, however he was given the task of organising the 1820 Settlers in Port Elizabeth. He was officially the first governor of PE from the 6 June 1820 – 1821. His wife Elizabeth was buried in Meerut in India but her heart was embalmed at his request.

…… Love it is said is as strong as death! Sir Rufane Donkin built a memorial to his wife Elizabeth known as the Donkin Memorial atop a hill above the city centre and named the city, Port Elizabeth, in her memory. The Donkin Reserve is open to all in perpetuity according to his will.”

From The Port Elizabeth Times

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2012 in animals, dogs, memories, south-africa

 

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Photos in my mind

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*A note to those who’re new to my blog…
My blogs are written on paper while I’m out teaching,
in the ‘dead’ time between students or on the bus…
just in case you find it doesn’t make much sense*

Oh look! Today’s Friday the 13th! So far, it’s promising to be peachy in spite of my horrorscope promising doom ‘n gloom. I think I’ll actually take a lottery ticket today. In fairness, the lottery place should be empty barring a few other souls as odd as me.

It’s Friday! : )

An old black man got on the bus – his most notable features were his work-worn hands. I looked up at his creased brown skin and my thoughts went back to old Joe. Joe was part of the landscape of my childhood, a short man, his face a map of ebony wrinkles. I’m not sure what his actual job was, but I remember him mostly on his knees alongside my gran as they lovingly tended pansies, dahlias and roses.

He was a quiet man. The only time I remember him actually saying something was when, during some controversial political upheaval in the country ~ “Ek’s ‘n kaffir. Ek sal altyd ‘n kaffir wees.” (Translates to “I’m a kaffir and will always be a kaffir”) He wasn’t being humble or downtrodden when he said that. He said it with an odd pride. I actually think that he had found the equality everyone else was crying for kneeling in the dirt next to a white woman, tending the flower beds they both loved. I was taught to respect him and who could do otherwise? I think he was old before time began.

Another short man from my past comes to mind, Oom de Vos. I can picture him clearly. Actually, I can smell him clearly too. He carried a musty old-man smell about him that made me imagine him carrying mothballs in the pockets of his equally old black suit that he probably dug out especially for these visits. I wish I knew more about him though. He’d known my gran for many, many years. Apparently, he had been a manager on the family farm. He always spoke to my gran with warm deference. I suspect that he could have filled in a lot of the gaps I have in the family history. I’d look his family up, but, sadly, De Vos is a fairly common name in South Africa and I know absolutely nothing else about him. For the lack of photos, I wish I were an artist. I’d paint a picture. The memories are crystal clear.

A young girl, a student, got onto the bus and stood next to my seat. I offered to hold her bags, but she put them on the floor at her feet. She did, however, allow me to hold her book, a thick tome on Clinical Anatomy. Have you ever held a book and wished you could just absorb all the information in it through the covers… osmosis-style? I did. I wonder if she’d have thought me odd or presumptuous if I’d started flipping through the book.

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Posted by on August 13, 2010 in life, memories, people, thought

 

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Magic on the tracks

steam train 2

I was listening to some Afrikaans songs tonight when “Trans Karoo” came on. Ah… memories…

Tchuk-tchuk- tchuck-tchuk, Clickety-clack… clickety clack…. one of the best lullabies a child can sleep to as the train rocks gently on the tracks. As I slept, I was concious of pulling into midnight middle-of-nowhere stations and the quiet fuss of loading up fresh coal and passengers. Come morning, the call of the stewardess, “Coffee, tea, Milo?” That is still used in our home. For once, I wasn’t interested in what was being served. I’d push up the window, resting forearms on the sill and leaning out as far as I could, I wanted to see the huge locomotive in front, gaze in awe at upcoming tunnels that secretly terrified me. Gran would get annoyed at the soot she’d have to clean off my clothes then. Looking back, I’d see the long red and beige train snaking behind.

steam train

The bathrooms were an adventure in themselves and the tiny metal washbasins. Going to the dining car was a journey of unbelievable excitement and trepidation. Crossing the concertina joins between carriages required a huge amount of courage and the comforting hand of an adult. White linen table cloths, linen serviettes and heavy silver cutlery. I can’t, for the life of me, remember the food. I think I had my nose pressed to the window. The train whistle blows, then Parrrp… parrrp… Khssshhhhhh…. we pull into the station. There’s the fuss of pulling cases down, checking nothing is left, the noisy compartment door crashing open. I look out the windows in the passage for the last time. The train empties out onto the smooth concrete platform. Train stations always seem to have ornate metal supports and rails, red brick or cream and grey buildings and pretty gardens.

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Posted by on May 8, 2010 in memories, south-africa

 

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Caipirinha tales

Let me introduce you to Brazil’s national drink… Caipirinha! My first taste of caipirinha was in 1996 when we visited Brazil. We had just been for lunch at a kilo grill on Avenida Paulista, where Jorge ordered caipirinha for me. It was June, but very, very hot – at least, by my mild South African standards. The caipirinha was soooo refreshing and considering my love of anything lemony… well… I enjoyed it so much that I had a second one. Stepping back out into the heat of the day definitely made my cheeks rosy and inspired a fondness for my husband (judging by the way I clung to him as I walked).Yes, caipirinha is to be had in small doses and not for the weak or innocent. I have seen Brazilians knock neat cachaça back like water. How they do it is quite beyond me. The word ‘Caipirinha’ means ‘little hillbilly’.

To make caipirinha:

2 tsp granulated sugar (to taste. I often use sweetener, as I can’t tolerate sugar)
8 lime wedges
2 1/2 oz cachaça (Brazilian cane spirit)

Crush the sugar into the lime wedges in a whisky glass. Fill the glass with ice cubes. Pour the cachaça into the glass. Stir well. Serve.

There are other versions of caipirinha. Some make it with other fruit juices, replacing the lime. Then there are those who can’t take or don’t like cachaça and use vodka. The caipirinha is then called a caipiroska.

The photo above was taken at Paraty. It was my friend’s son’s birthday, so the four of us, Anne, Gerhard, Tat and myself went to this lovely restaurant in Paraty. The service was out of this world. In fairness, we gave the waiters their night’s entertainment though. We sat outside because Anne had her two dogs with her, Lucy and Magnum. The streets were made up of huge cobblestones, which lent a decidedly unstable setup for our tables. Whenever we went out as a group, we laughed, literally, all the way through dinner and when we laughed, we laughed hard and it had absolutely nothing to do with what we did or didn’t have to drink. I think the staff were just tickled at our antics. Towards the end of the meal, Anne was talking animatedly and flailing her arms. In mid-flail, she knocked my glass of caipirinha over… over me! So there I was, smelling like a distillery, soaked, laughing so hard, the tears were running and the glass, shattered on the table. The waiter was a star. He replaced the table cloth, gave me something to attempt a clean-up (thank goodness we were outside) and Anne bought me another drink, which I felt the need to protect; thus the photo above. Ah…. we had some good times. I know that the weekend was special and each of us remembers it with smiles.

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2007 in brazil, friends, fun, memories, recipe

 

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