A day in the life of Sam

It takes a long time to get to the other side of the country.

To be sure, there are adventures to be had, mortal dangers to avoid and many different, friendly and unfriendly people to meet on the way. The variety of the different kinds of food would be a wonderful experience, if you are brave enough to taste them.

Sam woke up one morning with a tingling in his foot. He had been born with only one foot – that was the one that was tingling! He reckoned that the tingling must mean something. Then he had the brainwave! It means I need to travel. Where should I go? Just look North and step forth as they say in the classics!

So that is what he did. He hoisted all his worldly possessions on his back, checked where the sun was to find North and slipped silently on his way. No goodbyes or explanations to any of the others, who still slept – this was his own adventure!

He made good progress, crossing a patch of forest, but it was hot! Sam realised that moving during the day was not as wise as doing it in the cool of night. As he was thinking about perhaps holing up for the rest of the day, he was knocked over by a mighty blow!

Looking up he saw the face of a great furry monster looming over him. He quickly dived into his house and sealed the entrance with his foot. Nothing happened for a moment, although he thought he could hear heavy breathing.

All of a sudden, his foot was tickled and he began to giggle, even though there was something very big and dangerous out there…

The cat pulled a face and said Yuchh! and spat out the taste of the slimy snail foot and stalked away, sure that he would never taste a snail’s foot again.

Phew ! said Sam after a while, that was a lucky escape! He stretched out of his shell, tested the grass with his tongue (it tasted a bit different to the lettuce he was used to) and looked about to see if it was safe to go on. Which it was, so he slipped along for a while, up and down over grass blades, until he got to a flat hard desert like surface.

Far on the other side he could see some green, so he set off. It was very hot and he began to feel sorry that he had left home and his family and friends. There was no one to talk to and… suddenly there was a loud squeewitt!! and a shadow fell over him. It was a Magpie Lark who thought Sam could be lunch; but Sam was fast. He slipped into his shell and gripped the ground tightly with his muscular foot. Tap! tap! peck, peck! on his shell, but it was too hard for the bird, which flew off with a disgusted Sqweewitt!

And that was enough adventure for Sam. He turned away and sprint-slipped back the way he came. He got back home as the sun was going down.

All the other snails who lived under the same pot as he did said Where have you been? You were gone when we woke up and we searched and searched but couldn’t find you…

The other side of the world Sam said, don’t go there and fell asleep.

who am I /who I am

Having been a taxpayer in five countries and a citizen of five, not all the same, including one in which I never lived, I sometimes ponder on the nature of my ethnicity and nationality.

My patronymic grandfather was born in Ireland and I believe is descended from 11th Century knights from Normandy, who assisted William the Conqueror invade England and later Ireland. They in turn were descended from Alaric the Visigoth, who trashed Rome.

Thus I am an Irish citizen by descent.

By naturalisation, I am also a New Zealand citizen and have been a citizen of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, Swaziland and the United Kingdom and Colonies.

But I can’t really call myself Irish or Kiwi because I sound like a rooinek Japie from South Africa. My paternal grand mother is descended from Scottish Brownlees (landing in South Africa in 1817) and Dutch De Jagers (1697) – making me a 10th generation South African.

On my maternal grandfather’s side I am an Englishman descended from John Vialls of Orton in the 1600’s. My Gogo (grandmother) was descended from Danish and German settlers in 1700’s (perhaps Huguenots fleeing religious persecution?)

Now here’s a thing! Geni genealogy website tells me that I am directly descended from John Lackland Plantagenet, King of England following Richard the Lionheart, through both my father and my mother. Genealogy is a fascinating subject!

(No need to stand on ceremony, the occasional Milord will do).

So that is why why I support the Bokke then the Wallabies (I live there) and then the All Blacks, but Ireland above all of them.

Strangely I would probably never support the English!

Of course being white skinned and English speaking I am rejected by Afrikaner and black and brown Southern Africans. I have too many Afrikaner ancestors to be denied (at least 18 different Afrikaner family names in my family tree), but only a Timorese ancestor in the 1600’s to darken my skin.

I feel like a colonial mongrel, but I suppose at the end of the day, we all are!

Rugby players drink lager

  Story suggested by Simon Pius Wednesday 24 March

When we are young we pass swift judgements and cling to our beliefs stubbornly – something like nailing one’s colours to the mast.

Being a British colonial male of European ancestry, I was naturally a rugby player. Soccer was an Englishman’s game, played by hairdressers and ballet dancers as well as Continental drama queens and natives.

The fact that rugby originated in England is a bit puzzling but it is believed that Rugby College banned poetry and invented rugby which became the gentlemens’ opportunity to let off steam.

English grammar schools continued poetry and Shakespeare and played soccer. In recent years they have been offering cooking and interior decorating classes. It was believed this gave the hoi-polloi wider scope for their talents.

Rugby players can tell who is a soccer player. They use hair products and frequently flick their hair out of their eyes; they are also believed to use handcream and shave their armpits. Soccer players have a high sense of drama and a low tolerance for pain.  Sometimes these two areas overlap.They have been seen to abuse referees, for goodness sake! 

The clearest indicator used to be that a man is a soccer player if he chooses pale ale instead of lager. 

This is a telling point. Pale ales are warm brewed and all the fermentation occurs at the top of the beer, giving it a significant head.

They are fruity and frothy with the occasional bitter edge and there is a wide variety. 

Lagers are consistent, conservative and unchanging; they are cold brewed and not as frothy. They are more about hops and malt, slightly bitter; certainly not fruity. There is a slight difference with Pilsener which is a lighter beer but not complex nor even  a bit fruity. Wingers have been known to drink them.

Rugby forwards sometimes drink stout and porter, which may technically be ales but they have a hint of chocolate, so it is understandable the fatties like them.

It must be said that a rugby player will watch soccer if there is only badminton or chess to watch and the pub has television. What they can’t understand is why soccer players get paid so much for just kicking a ball around. They believe it must be the necessary dramatic skills which for them is a bridge too far.

These days of course, with traditional society being stood on its head by cancel culture and all sorts of creatures emerging from hitherto unknown closets, rugby players are far more tolerant. Some have come out and admitted they have tasted pale ale and they have been kept on the team!

The duck, the monkey and the elephant

Story suggested by Michelle Craik Monday 22 March

A duck and an elephant walked into a bar. The elephant had a monkey on its back.

It’s not as strange as you think, as it was a bar on the beach so the elephant could  just stroll up to the counter. The duck flipped up onto a barstool and watched her friend fondly. The monkey hopped onto the thatched roof to sit in the sun.

Barkeep, I have had a bad day and a real monkey on my back, so give me something to bring the sun out

The barman had been around the block a few times, so it took a lot to shake him.

Coming right up and what can I get for your pretty friend?

As he spoke he opened two bottles of sparkling wine and emptied them into a bucket, threw in two half oranges and a bunch of celery. He then added a bottle of tequila, a tin of passion fruit and a bowl of cherries.

There you go big fella, that is called a Bahamas Sunshine and should straighten the kinks in your tail!

The elephant inserted his trunk, sucked up the lot and squirted it into his mouth. 

Goodness gracious me! That was a very fine drop! Hit me again, but make it a double! Oh and my friend will have a beer (make it a half, ducks don’t have a very good head for liquor.)

You got any peanuts for my driver?

The barman didn’t know if he was glad or sad that there were no other customers in his bar.

The duck made some soft quacking noises to the elephant, who said: Can you point us to the facilities, it’s been a long trip.

Thinking quickly the barman realised that his tiny facility would not accommodate an elephant: The ladies is down that passage, but I am sorry there is a burst pipe in the gents, so if you don’t mind, there is a grove of coconut palms just outside, next to the garden… 

The duck waddled off and the elephant headed for the palm trees.

A few minutes later a familiar, strident voice was heard from the kitchen: Henry! There was a duck in the facilities; I shoo’d it away and luckily it just quacked off!

The barman replied yeah! she came in with her buddy the elephant.

The voice from the kitchen took on an accusatory tone: Have you been smoking that Jamaican tobacco again?!

Henry began to wonder, when neither the elephant nor the duck returned. Just then the monkey scampered by saying: where’s my ride?  

The barkeep sat down and poured himself a double scotch; he had stopped smoking after getting weird dreams – maybe this was an after kick, it was good stuff!

Later that day the phone rang: Hi – you may remember me, I was in earlier for a drink, the big guy with the pretty girl friend? Anyway, sorry for ducking out, but I had to find a way to get the monkey off my back.

I’ll settle the tab on my next visit, you pour a mean breakfast cocktail. Ooops! gotta go, this is a trunk call… 

Henry put the phone down and decided may be he would start smoking again.

Slip slops

Story suggested by  Gail Leaver Friday 12 March

Slip-slops, flip-flops, thongs (not to be be confused with other thongs, which are worn between the legs not the toes), pluggers, plakkies, jandals (Japanese sandals, duh!), slippahs and smakols are all descendants of japanese zori, introduced to the US by servicemen returning from occupation leave. They became popular unisex summer footwear in warm climes all over the world.

Japanese have been using different versions for two thousand years. Even before them, the Egyptians wore them as far back as 1200BC

It seems that the establishment disapproves of the flip-flop. When someone, usually a politician, changes opinion in a way that annoys people that is called doing a flip-flop

A minor controversy erupted in 2005 when some members of a national womens’ lacrosse team visited the White House wearing slip-slops. The team responded to critics by auctioning off their slip-slops on e-Bay, raising $1,653 for a young cancer patient.

Hmmm! One can almost understand the Trump phenomenon.

The Dalai Lama of Tibet is a frequent wearer of slip-slops and has met with several U.S. presidents, including George W Bush and Barack Obama wearing the sandals. Dubya awarded him the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007. I don’t think it was just for wearing slip-slops.

Atlanta based company Flip Flop Shops claimed that the shoes were responsible for $20 billion industry in 2009. Furthermore, sales of slip-slops exceeded those of sneakers for the first time in 2006.

Podiatrists recommend avoiding the inexpensive, drug store varieties and spending more on sandals with thick-cushioned soles, as well as ones that have a strap that’s not canvas and that comes back almost to the ankle

However the evidence is overwhelming – these sandals are certainly the most popular footwear in the world. They are functional, cheap and easily replaced. They are ideal for the beach, hence their popularity in good beach countries.

They are not too popular in colder climes.

I must confess the sight of socks and flops puts my teeth on edge.

Personally, I don’t like ‘em, but that is probably jealousy, because I cannot wear them.

I wear crocs, which is why, I’ve been told I haven’t got lucky…

Harry the Chocolate King

King Harry is a big dog. He looks like a king, even if he is quite old. His coat is dark chocolate brown as he is a chocolate Labrador. (It doesn’t mean he is made of chocolate, that is his colour; he is made of dog).

I meet him often as he strolls around the parklands near his palace in Hilliard Park.

He is often in the company of the Duke and Duchess of Hilliard, who are his Lord and Lady in Waiting.

Even though he is a king, Harry doesn’t wear a crown or fancy robes like some other dogs. He is cool and casual.

When I meet him, I greet him in siSwati, and he understands everything I say, which is weird as he is Australian, but then kings are special.

King Harry is getting on in age, but he still has a twinkle in his eye, especially when he meets Miss Lulu, who is Schnauzer who wants to be a ballerina. He will even roll in the grass in some places, to show that he is just an ordinary person, groaning softly, squirming and grinning.

Talking of grinning, King Harry is a grinner; he always has at least a smile on his face. I believe he is a happy dog.

When he walks, without a leash of course because he is a King and well behaved, he has a languid step, never hurrying. He strolls sedately and politely greets everyone who he meets. They all feel honored by his attention and bow and wait until he approaches them before they speak.

Mind you, he will sometimes put on a leash to show other dogs that he is on their side. He hasn’t actually said that people should be on leads not dogs, but I think he thinks so.

If he is feeling particularly happy and his gout isn’t troubling him he will even indulge in a frisky caper, a little dance to encourage the young people who gaze at him adoringly.

It is so nice to know that we have a king living nearby.

Pancakes

Even though I say it myself, I regard my culinary talents as adventurous, even challenging!

I only married in my 30’s, so had a fair bit of cooking experience in my bachelor days, despite living in Africa where cooks were often employed for most meals. Of course being an African male, I am an experienced vleis braaier, which is Afrikaans for ‘meat guerrilla’.

The braaivleis, known as barbeque in many parts of the world, is a cultural practice which involves the cooking of piles of meat. The cooking often takes place after a few drinks and is not really that important; the meat just has to look cooked. It often does in the evening twilight, after a few beers…

But I am not here to talk about meat, of which, I have realised, I eat too much. Accordingly, I have resolved to give up meat for Lent in accordance with older traditions and instead of beer, …. Maybe next year.

My wife is perturbed as I said that I would eat more fish, which she is not fond of. So I have set out to show her that there is no need to fear, by cooking some fishcakes as a surprise.

In order to ensure a special dish, I used my pilchards in chili sauce, which I had been saving for a treat. I combined it with some bread crumbs of the nutty, seedy bread she prefers. To make the mixture more special and because she doesn’t like raw onion, I used sliced pickled onion, which I thought was quite innovative. To add some colour, I added a couple of sliced pepperdews, small red capsicums in a sweet syrup. I mixed in an egg for binding, salt and pepper seasoning and some finely chopped parsley from the garden. Simple!

Please note, this was my own recipe!

The mixture made six and a half cakes, which I fried in olive oil. Even though I say it myself, they were delicious! (A couple fell apart, so I had to eat them for lunch).

To my consternation, my wife turned down the fishcakes without hesitation – she doesn’t like tuna, chili or my cooking, especially when I try different ingredients…

Looks like I’ll be cooking for myself for the 40 days of Lent.

P.S. I had a nibble of half a cake before I went to bed. I must confess I had a very weird dream about riding an Afrikander bull which was chased by a lion past a lion reserve full of identical lions following each other, holding the tail of the foremost one in their mouths…

Ooops! Sorry… did you say pancakes?

Hey those are easy – I made some on Tuesday. Just add water to the mix, skud die bottel and fry on a hot pan. Delicious with Maple Syrup and Lemon Juice.

I ate them all – no dreams even.

Passion

I hope that this title got your attention. Getting sneaky is how we get buy!

This is about resurgence of my passion.

My pre-passion mulling over period came to an abrupt end when I buttered my toast this morning. I was smiling in anticipation of a great gobbet of our New Zealand made lemon curd on top. Never smile at a crocodile, it will get there first! The cupboard was bare! I had to make do with Anchovette fish paste.

This obviously called for immediate action to avoid any further disappointment.

We are blessed in Queensland by an abundance of passion fruit; so many that even friends and neighbours are full up. So I have essayed into beneficiation – Clem Sunter’s answer to South Africa’s reliance on primary industry; Australia should consider it.

I sprang into action: to Google for a recipe and the cupboard and fridge for ingredients.

Now Baby Boomers men will understand that the challenge before me was of some magnitude. Particularly we who originated in the Dark Continent were not equipped with culinary skills of any sort. The more progressives had mastered making a cup of tea and operating a toaster quite successfully.

In my retirement I have taken steps to avoid stagnation by writing blathering blogs and amazing autobiographies. But now I have experienced… YES, I will confess – a new passion which has brightened my life appreciably.

I am talking about the kitchen arts: those that our wives and daughters absorbed from an early age from their mothers and grandmothers. Whereas when Mum was cooking, boys’ focus was who got to lick the bowl and the biggest slice; girls noted utensils and spoon sizes, pot size and the advantages of butter and how to whisk eggs… the list is long.

So, Dear Readers (those who are still with me), you may agree that the challenge facing me to ensure never having to endure another disappointment in much anticipated indulgence, was great. It may even have daunted some.

By googling “passion fruit curd” I was blessed with about 4,230,000 articles… I read the first three and being health conscious, I chose the one with only 1/4 cup of sugar.

The recipe required in addition:

4 egg yolks

6 tablespoons of unsalted butter

juice of 2 lemons

1/2 cup of passion fruit pulp

What could be easier than that?

Huh! Have you ever tried to separate egg yolks from the limpid, runny stuff, without getting egg shell in the mix? … and pips out of lemon juice after it has been added to the sugar?

What’s a double boiler?

What if you have no unsalted butter AND no whisk, which you discover only after you have started mixing the stuff …

In my passion, I took the bit between my teeth and combined pulp and sugar and warmed it over a bowl in a pot of boiling water (ingenious, I know).

I managed to separate most of the yolks and whipped them with the lemon juice (only a few pips remained) and I mixed it with the passion fruit, then added the cubes of butter slowly, while whisking the mix until they melted…To demonstrate my nonchalance at my new found prowess, I made a cup of tea and sterilized an old coffee jar at the same time. Multi- tasking I believe it is called.

A prime aspect of this curdling process is whisking, which is required to be continuous. Imagine my horror when someone knocked on the front door! I had to remove the pot from the flame, attend the inquiry (can I clean your gutters ?) and dash back to resume my whisking.

New-fangled culinary technology does not faze me – I even managed to take the temperature of the cooking curd as I whisked.

Once it reached 160 deg F, I whipped it off the stove and jarred it! I tell you now whisking for about 20 minutes requires perseverance and some endurance.

But I did it … and I got to lick the bowl and the spoon.

I am passionate about cooking …

Beware! Beware! 
His flashing eyes, his floating hair! 
Weave a circle round him thrice, 
And close your eyes with holy dread 
For he on honey-dew hath fed, 
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
*

*Samuel Taylor Coleridge

A living will is a dying wish

“The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our separate ways, I to die and you to live. Which of these two is better, only God knows.”

-Socrates

Such clarity of mind and absence of fear, when faced with imminent death, is remarkable and unusual. His last words were a reminder to Crito to pay a debt for him.

I am not dying, nor do I intend to do so for a number of years yet. However, I suspect when that Spectre is nigh, that I might not be possessed of the coolth and clarity of Socrates. So I will tell you now about how I would not like my dying to occur.

My intention is to inform my kith and kin and doctors to avoid the involvement of lawyers, who insist on making simple statements complex in order to guarantee certainty … and fees, no doubt.

In accordance with our will, my estate and all my possessions are to become my wife’s property and in the event of her death, before or after me, will be divided equally amongst our five children.

A simple concept was developed in Florida, USA to encapsulate the how I want to die / don’t want to die situation, called the Five Wishes, which met the approval of even Mother Theresa :

  •  My wife is the person I want to make care decisions for me when I can’t. If she can’t, then I wish one or two of my children to do so.
  • I do not wish to receive Medical Treatment that will prolong my life, unless I would be able to enjoy a good quality of life thereafter. Don’t keep me alive as a vegetable, don’t resuscitate me unless I could go swimming unaided and sing songs thereafter.unplug me.jpg
  • I like the idea of pain relief and maintaining dignity, even if it might not be good for continued breathing.
  • I do not wish to be a burden on my family, especially if /when I become demented. Place me in care and only come to see me if I will recognise you.
    • There is a Catch 22 here which you will need to resolve: the cost of care will come from our estate, which may diminish your inheritance. Let your own quality of life be the guiding principle.
  • I would like a memorial gathering where people can offer prayers, tell stories, laugh and cry.
    • Above all I would like to hear the singing from wherever I may be;
    • I wouldn’t mind a wake – in any event, I would like people to have a bit of a hooleyd'ya tink Im dead
    • I would like my ashes to be the growth medium for an umVovovo tree (huilende boerboon / tree fuschia).

tree burial