‘Good Morning, Mr Mandela’

I did resolve not to buy any more books until I’d dented at least some of the pile of 60 still begging to be read, but when Zelda la Grange’s much anticipated book about her life as Nelson Mandela’s assistant was launched on Thursday, I rushed to get a copy.

I read it in a day, assisted by loads of tissues and if the social media is anything to go by, the first print run is already sold out.

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Those expecting loads of dirt, celebrity gossip or a tell all book are going to be disappointed.  La Grange has said in the book and in interviews leading up to the launch that it’s her story and not Madiba’s.  Instead it’s filled with ancedotes of his later years and lessons she learned from him in the 19 years as gatekeeper to one of the world’s most loved icons.

But Zelda does document the sadness of Mandela’s last days, the blunders by the government medical team treating him and she lifts the veil on the family infighting as Madiba clung to life.

She shares how, unbelievably, Mandela’s widow Graça Machel, had to get accreditation to attend her husband’s memorial service with only four of her family members allowed at her side and how at the last minute and even though she was wholly excluded from any of the arrangements, Zelda rushed around calling in favours to get accreditation for Mandela’s closest friends as well as celebrities Bono, Charlize Theron and Oprah Winfrey, all of whom had conveniently been disregarded, despite Madiba’s wishes, by those swinging the sceptre.

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Good morning, Mr Mandela is filled with courage, tenacity, integrity, tenderness and most of all love and respect.

From Bowling Green to Bowl of Greens

Formerly a disused bowling green in the foothills of Devil’s Peak and dwarfed by Table Mountain on the top side, Oranjezicht City Farm is a growing inner city farming project run primarily by volunteers, on the fringes of the City Bowl.

Interactive and child and pet-friendly, the farm’s vision is to get people to understand what they are eating and where it comes from.

Visit the popular Saturday organic market or do a guided self-harvest on Wednesday afternoons, weather permitting.  For more information on opening times and location visit the farm’s website.

The site also has a fascinating history and some of the cobbled bridlepaths remain from what was at one time the largest farm in the Upper Table Valley, occupied by the Van Breda family for seven generations.

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Books for Africa

The Cape Town Book Fair has returned to the Mother City, this time as the South African Book Fair.  Bummer that not one but two of the guest speakers I badly wanted to see didn’t pitch (shame on you both!), but there was a lot to see, loads of books on sale and I was particularly taken by this attractive display of Iconic South African writers by the Department of Arts and Culture.  Plus it’s also a small comfort to see that not all my income tax money went to upgrading Nkandla, president Zuma’s controversial luxury residence !!

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Jorgensen’s Distillery

No trip to Wellington is complete without a visit to Jorgensen’s Distillery.  Situated on Versailles Farm in Regent Street in the heart of the town, it’s one of those places where time seems to stand for a while, despite the bustle of country life outside.

Versailles is home to “Still Man” Roger Jorgensen and his family and two gorgeous, exuberant pittbulls who make wonderful ambassadors for the breed, proving once again that there are no bad dogs, ever, only bad bad owners.

But back to Versailles, home of finely handcrafted spirits with understatedly elegant packaging:  Think moonshine and mampoer and the prohibition.  Add to the alchemy an impressive apothecary from a sleepy shed where Roger keeps his potion ingredients to a modern day legal setting.  Add a lazy and slightly neglected vineyard to the backdrop and you have all the necessary imagery to conjure up this delightful distillery in your mind’s eye.

Roger is that passionate about his craft he should bottle his enthusiasm too while he’s at it.  It was inspirational to see that he’s as at home in his small outdoor plant nursery as he is making potstill brandy, vodka or Field of Dreams, Jorgensen’s unusual handcrafted organic absinthe, a combination of colouring herbs and flavoured spirits.

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He also makes a damn good cocktail despite his protestations about being terrible at it.  Mine was a Nordic Snapper, his adult version of the ubiquitous Bloody Mary.  I thought I was opting for the healthy, vegetarian option considering it was mid morning, but be warned, this drink has a kick like a Platteland donkey – which isn’t surprising considering the alcohol content of the aquavit - that spirit our Nordic forefathers warm their bones with in winter.  After drinking half, it felt more like I’d ordered Thor’s Hammer, another aptly named drink from Roger’s cocktail list that tries to disguise its potency, this time under the guise of a cucumber puree base.  I’d suggest booking a B&B in town when you visit, just to be safe :-)  Then you can also linger longer.

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My Nordic Snapper

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The still – where it all happens

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  Love at first sight – Tuscan, ambassador of my absolute favourite breed (sorry Schalk, Mom still loves you)03-IMG_0871 Simplicity – in the table decorations and the snacks and the whole Jorgensen operation.

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At least the lemongrass swizzle sticks were non-alcoholic, as was the home-made lemonade.

Dias Beach

This pristine and secluded beach nested between rocky outcrops in Cape Point Nature Reserve literally took my breath away on a recent hike.  It’s often referred to as one of the Cape’s best kept secrets and the experience is worth every minute of the scramble down a seemingly endless stretch of wooden steps and the doubly-hectic climb back up.  Imagine every colour of turquoise possible, deceptively strong currents and absolute tranquillity.

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The Splendour of a Cape Point Circular Walk

That it’s a breathtakingly beautiful and wild and showcases nature and the Cape Floral Kingdom are just a handful of reasons to put Cape Point Nature Reserve at the top of your Cape Town “Must See” list.  Spend at least a day there if not more.

From nature walks to fishing and surfing with an ostrich or an antelope in the background, there’s so much to take in.  Oh yes, and hang onto your backpack and look over your shoulder from time to time when hiking or you could just come face to face with a hungry baboon :-)

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Close Encounters of the Hairy Kind

Cape Point, as many of you already know, is right on my doorstep.  It’s situated at the very end of the Cape Peninsula, which pokes out into the Atlantic like a crone’s arthritic forefinger and boasts a wild and rugged coastline prone to raging storms, spectacular scenery and equally spectacular hikes.  And a troop of Chacma baboons.

I don’t get out to Cape Point anywhere near as often as I should, so when the opportunity to hike with a local group came up in mid April, I set my alarm to go off before sunrise and packed a backpack.  And that’s where the trouble started.

We had stopped for lunch after a fairly strenuous decent from the car park to Platboom beach and I was sitting on a rock surrounded by waves contemplating life as one does when I was distracted by shouting.  The wind was whipping around me so I didn’t pay much attention, but the shouting persisted.  I turned towards the source of the noise just in time to see a young woman on the beach below waving her arms and a lone baboon heading straight for me.  Rheumatoid arthritis aside, I was on my feet in a seconds.

What happened next was surreal.  The baboon weighed me up momentarily, then grabbed my backpack as if it was his.  I could tell by his size that he wasn’t an Alpha male, so I grabbed it back.  A tug of war ensued before I lost my nerve and rationalised:  although he was a young adult, he was a wild animal after all and he was after food, so I reluctantly let go.  As calm and brazen as a thief in daylight, he ran across the rocks a few feet away, unzipped the main flap, rummaged around for food (I’d eaten it all) then tossed the bag aside as two men in our group chased him off.

Bizarrely to some I suppose, my first instinct was to photograph him rather than fight for what was mine but I had the wrong lens on the camera.  Instead I yelled at him, trying to shoo him away with items of clothing.  The baboon didn’t bat an eyelid, he just surveyed me as if I was quite mad and then ambled off up the dunes.

Out of my line of vision another woman was sitting on her own on a rock meditating, her backpack strapped to her back.  She was disturbed by the zip on her backpack opening and in a flash the baboon rifled through the contents and made off with the rest of her lunch.  He was out of range by the time I gathered my wits, backpack and scattered belongings and ran after him to photograph him. 10-IMG_1143 12-IMG_1146Interactions like these are why I love living where I do and it’s vital to mention that at no time did I fear for my life.  Not even when the rest of the troop arrived (see below) and we watched their antics from mere metres away.  Perhaps that’s because I have been up close and personal with the Da Gama Park troop near the Naval Stables in Glencairn before, an encounter that led me to write about the battle for land between these wild creatures and man.

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When you visit Cape Point spend quality time there instead of racing to the restaurant and the signboards for the “we were here” photos as most tourists do.  There is so much more to this amazing landmark than you’ll get from a quick look at the brochure.

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