Thursday, December 31, 2009

Molen Rivier

I am , actually, a Langkloofer. My family, the Tautes, come from the Langkloof, having been granted Molen Rivier in the 1700's. My grandfather was born there, and my father told me many stories, when I was growing up, of him spending time under the old homesteads yellow wood ceilings in the 1950's when he working for a canning company ,and was well known in the Kloof as 'die Engelsman' that came in and bought fruit.

There are stories of a branch of the family who suffered from haemophilia and so there was a single spinster (she never married through fear of carrying the bleeder gene) called Babette who lived for many years in the old homestead in Molen Rivier.

My father has asked me many times if I have visited the homestead, and up to last week I had not, but had swished past on my way down the R62. Not much is visible from the road, but I had glimpsed a few whitewashed buildings beyond a grove of trees, an overgrown river and a church.

It was an extremely hot day, and we were on our way to an even hotter Oudshoorn when Lex and I decided to drive in and explore. I have two wonderful old photographs of my ancestors taken at Molen River. One shows a group of rather attractive ladies, mostly dressed in black, gathered in front of a window. I have always liked it, the women seeming rather less severe than most, in old pictures of a hundred years ago. Some look at the camera and some away, but they are relaxed, informal.
My favourite photograph, however, is the other one, showing a group of happy picnickers, down on the river banks, most dressed in white, some with palm fronds and bulrush leaves ringed round their straw hats. Some faces are blurred ( I guess they moved) others half smile into the lens. The subjects lean against each other, languishing in the shade of what was probably a very hot day. As a child I fancied I was one of them, a young girl, tendrils of hair escaping a large loose ribbon, a straw hat tossed back around my neck.

So, as we turned off onto the gravel I gazed down to the left, through the grove of cool trees to the river, fancying for a moment, I glimpsed them all there.

Before I left Cape Town I read a wonderful book in the rather special bookclub I used to belong to there. It was 'The Beadle" by Pauline Smith. I had somehow managed to get to this ripe old age without reading this South African classic, but I, together with many other ladies in the bookclub, adored it. When I arrived in the Langkloof I visited the Book Exchange ( what a lifesaver - the Joubertina Library is a sad affair!) and there, on a shelf, was a copy of 'The Beadle', which I promptly bought and re read.

When I next visited my parents they handed to me all the Taute family papers, seeing as I had, as it were, returned to my roots. They make very fascinating reading, as does the section in a book about the Langkloof written recently. However, the most glorious aspect of all this, in my opinion, was the information contained in a little yellowed newspaper article . In it was the wonderful fact that Pauline Smith had, in fact, written 'The Beadle' whilst staying for a few months at the Taute homestead in Molen Rivier.

Now I know that the setting for the book is the Karoo, but as I wondered around the little church and graveyard in Molen Rivier, I beleived that this was the churchyard Pauline Smith had gazed upon, when she wrote the book. Be that as it may, the graves were sad and unattended, just about all Tautes, and I stood and gazed upon them for a long while, and Lex wondered aloud if they had all been tall! Apparently yes, I have always been told that we have the genes of giants!

We eventually found the old homestead, but I had expected to find it unoccupied, having heard that Babette had died, and all the wonderful 18th century furniture had been auctioned off. Lex said, hopefully, that perhaps we could put in a land claim, seeing as how, it would appear, there are no more Tautes in the Kloof, except, that is, me! The house was, however, obviously occupied, with a mown lawn, some washing flapping on the line, and a gardener eyeing us over his spade.

I proudly announced that I was in fact a 'Taute,' and that I would like to walk around the old homestead. He informed us that the 'Meneer is daar bo by die stoor'. ( the owner is in the barn) - and so we set off to meet him.

We found the barn, rather empty, with one lonely man sitting tying up bunches of dried flowers. He looked like a labourer, and we could hear rather loud shouting coming from within. I sent Lex forward to ask about the 'Meneer' - thinking that maybe we had caught him at a bad time, shouting at his labour force!

Lex speaks perfect Afrikaans and as the 'boere' (farmers) here are traditionally conservative (read rascist) we thought we would tread carefully. I was determined to see the homestead. Lex walked ahead, me a few steps behind, into the barn, asking the man if we could see 'die meneer." At this, up stood the man, tilting back his red cap, and told us that he was, in fact, the owner!

It was at about the same moment that I realized that the 'shouting' was in fact loud reading from the Koran! Interesting.

He was very friendly and invited us to immediately return to the house, walk around as much as we liked, and to even step inside if we so wished. He assured us that Sanna, the domestic worker, would show us around.

We returned to the homestead, rather embarassed, but still determined to do the tour. The building has National Monument status, and so is completely unaltered. It is a little forlorn, and I looked for sign of Babettes award winning roses, but there were none, although the garden was neat and tidy. There were a few old men leaning on rakes and spades, watching us from the shade. I did wander what they were thinking when I cheerily introduced myself as 'family of Babette" and they nodded and smiled.

Lex thought we shouldn't go inside, but I wanted too, announcing that my Grandfather had been born in one of these rooms, and so on. The interior was dim and just about completely bare. The lovely wide yellow wood floors still gleamed. the low ceiling was still made from the solid yellowood beams, the windows still set deep in the thick walls, with broad wooden windowledges. All the fixtures and fittings are all still there. But, the walls were bare, except for endless Koranic scripture, some laminated, some framed, hung around on every wall. In amongst them was a photo of a lady, shrouded in black against the backdrop of Mecca.

We left, walking across the long dry lawn in silence. I suppose I felt the same way I always feel when I visit the famous homes (museums) of Shakespeare, Austen, the Brontes. Disappointed. I wanted, of cause, to find them all still there, the ladies of the photograph, or the picnic children. Maybe to glimpse my grandfather, young, jodhpurred, hitting his riding crop against muddy boots.... Even my own father, in his twenties, tall and dark haired, dressing for dinner, in the style of the 50's, with a cravat, a tweed jacket...

There were, naturally, none of them there, but it was worse than that. Every memory was erased, and I felt no hope of ever finding even a shadow of the past.
We were even more silent as we drove away. Stunned, to be honest, even disorientated.
After a while, we left the gravel again, turning back onto the tar, and drove away.
"Oh well," said Lex," there goes our land claim!" and then, I laughed.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Purple Aliens

The Jacarandas in the Langkloof are blooming. Their Gentian Violet heads are visible from a distance, glowing amongst the various greens of the other trees. They lay their blossoms down in a carpet of purple around their feet. My husband remembers Pretoria, and when we drive over them they pop and he recalls his childhood.

We have a Syringa tree in front of our house. It is our outside room. Recently it was laden with berries, light lilac buds and green leaves. The buds held a most heady fragrance, especially released at night, and I often sat beneath it in the dark, and drank that sweet aroma in. But they don't belong here actually - like we don't. We are called 'inkomers'.

There are many of us, and Lex and I are getting to know this group that we - by force of circumstance - belong to. Firstly, there are the motley crew in Twee Riviere: The family up at Bethany, the seven singing children, bringing the cows in. The large, hearty Dad with a voice like an arch angel with sandy hands - forever in shorts - conceding to add army boots in the cold. The blonde, willowy Mom, dreaming up prose whilst stooped over steaming pots of berries, apricots, peaches...

Then there is the other family, with six children, all of various skin tones, who live together in a jolly yellow house. Their sweet faces appear from bushes, peek out from between floral curtains, skipping and jumping like their happy goats when I arrive to visit.

There are the two 'bushbillies' who emerge smiling from their low wooden house like two Tolkien characters, bearded and long haired, in the winter cloaked and hooded. They live in a wooded clearing and their home inside is fragrant with herbal essences, ground coffee and spices. The wooden walls are lime washed, cosy, the light dappled and at night lanterns and candles glow.

A family with five children moved into Twee Riviere years ago, and now live in a house made of river rocks. They are a group, tousled haired and blonde, carrying chickens, large bunches of vegetables from their garden, or a baby on their hip when they greet you.

There are others who I know not so well, but are here, adding their shades of colour to the landscape. The artist who lives in Krakeel, with long, flowing greying hair, long dresses with gold brocade. She shares deep painterly thoughts whenever I meet her, often shrouded in smoke and also smiling.

Everyone knows the other artist, well known in art circles, now living deep in the Kouga. He paints Jesus with chalks and pigments taken from Khoi sites. He walks into town, like an old hobo, to share insights and have conversations about a past life surrounded by other artists and writers and South African characters now quite famous.

There is also the 'inkomer' Dominee and his wife and children who extend their home and hands in particular to outsiders, allowing themselves to be agents of change. They are a lighthouse to many, helping us to navigate  rough seas as we adapt to life here.

I have met other 'inkomers' too - from other parts of Africa. The Malawians are here, sought after for their labour, they are cheerful, hardworking and friendly. In town a Somalian woman sits cross legged and shrouded on a carpet of bags, bandannas, cheap underwear and headgear. 

In Joubertina there is a house just like Karen Blixens in 'Out of Africa'. Two other 'inkomers' live there. He is a true African, like a great white hunter, gravel voiced and leather hatted. She small and Dutch, trailing a little blonde child from one hand. We talk with them over black coffee, surrounded by cigarette smoke and they share their enthusiasms - the environment, the mountains, photography, art.

It is she who tells me about the wild orchids. Her eyes light up as she talks , first about the wonderful fynbos, and then, about the orchids, lying, contained in their bulbs beneath the soil, and then pushing up and revealing themselves in their abundant variety. Those who belong here are, of course, very beautiful.

But here now is my Syringa tree and over there I see two round Jacaranda heads. Next door are two oak trees that I adore, behind their stone wall. They don't belong here either.

More and more outsiders are coming - strangers fleeing the city, flying in on the wind like so many seeds, to find a better life. We are not always received with openness and friendship, but we are here to stay, and in the meantime , Langkloofers, why not enjoy the variety and colour that we bring.

 ....for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; .... Matthew 25:35

For the many in this beautiful Kloof that have blessed us so abundantly, Thank You. We are so looking forward to 2010. We are so grateful to be here, what a gift!
Have a Blessed Christmas!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Two Worlds

It is raining when we arrive . We pull up outside their house in Joubertina. Desmond and Garrie are gracious and friendly, inviting us in, out the rain.

We come at the invitation of Barnard, the dominee and his wife, Este. Lex and I have been reading Desmonds' letters from Krakeel, written in the early two thousands. They are written in Afrikaans, but even me, with my rather poor Afrikaans have appreciated the brilliance of the writing. Lex has explained subtle nuances, innuendos and word play that I otherwise might have missed.

We pause in the entrance room with Des. He is older now, a little shaky - and he fixes us beneath his gaze, with one particularly bright eye sparkling at us - we stand there and chat. We are surrounded by paintings, beautiful furniture, and soft carpets underfoot.

Garrie calls us in his soft Portuguese accented Afrikaans to join the party. We find them all in a busy kitchen and soon move through to another room, pink Camparis held high.

Here we settle and glancing round I take in a little of the art and artifacts that surround us. Garrie guides Desmond to a chair and he joins us, his conversation still bright, the twinkle in his eye winking at me. I feel totally somewhere else, here, under the high thatch, enclosed in other places. The world of Desmonds' travels and successes.

At table Garrie pads back and forth to the kitchen on bare feet, their two 'woefies' twirling round his feet like two large make-up brushes. The crystal glasses are heavy in my hand. The pink Camparis are followed by heady rose, the rose by vials of dry white wine that lingers on my tongue. We talk through mouthfuls of pancake mushroom starters, more pink in the maincourse ( what is it - delicious!). And end with berries and mousse ...

Through it all Garrie tenderly tends to Desmond, who shares of his life. On his other side is Este, Nordic, blonde Viking, beautifully assisting, bearing platters aloft. Sitting down she places a gentle hand on Desmonds arm. Desmond tells of the world of Peter Stuyvesant, and the Ruperts. And I think that he has surely lived his own byline - 'So much more to enjoy'.
And here we are, doing just that - in Joubertina.

By the time the coffee comes we have touched on all of them - the Strydoms of Krakeel (meaning Quarrel - like the sound of the waters that used to busily run through it). Desmond knows them all , is one. And here they have settled, back in the Langkloof. And those Langkloof tales, the Kritzingers, the Ferreiras, the Oliviers, are too many to tell, and they mix here, under the thatch with images of Europe, the Americas, Egypt...

The wine has mixed it all up and in the end we are fingering pottery Picasso-esque Portuguese figures, as Garrie dreams of them both one day living in Portugal. But thats not happening now, as he tends to a now tired Desmond, and I hear about little snippets of my own ancestors, the Tautes, also from the Langkloof.

In a sense we have something in common then, me also returning - feeling at home here from the big wide world. The 'woefies' do their swirl dance around us when we leave. Desmond braves the cold for us - it has stopped raining - and anyway he says it does not rain in the Kloof like it used to.

I have promised Garrie a pot of Basil - we spoke of Salad Caprese - and I heard them both invite us again. I want to go back.
To step off the Joubertina street and back under that cool high roof.
So many stories still to be told, by Des the once politician ( historically a Smuts man - and yes, he has the beard too) who once lost to the ANC by three votes. So, beloved by the people here also, obviously. The man who has known many a Dominee, many slain by his pen, others (especially Barnard) - encouraged.

I wish I knew them all - the characters that march through the pages of his writing - that spring to life. But I also have a sense now of a measure of suffering, maybe harsh words not only from him but towards him - mostly about his orientatation. His love.
A courageous man, living a life, then and now on his own terms - another extraordinary Langkloofer. How many more are out there?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bleak Blog

I have just said goodbye to my children. They got on a bus in Storms River, headed for Cape Town. We sat and waited at the restaurant tables drinking chocochinos. I felt gripped by the desire to travel myself. I have often been a traveller myself, in my life. My husband even more so. Both of us felt the excitement of our daughter, the anxiousness of our son. Buses pulled in and out - but not theirs. We filled the time by looking up at the great span of the bridge, talking of how it was constructed, telling tales of tragic jumps, imagining how it was before....

Eventually their bus came and there was their Oupa, already on the bus, coming up from PE. He and I have always had a deep affection for each other, although his son and I separated and divorced over ten years ago. And then there they went, hands waving at windows, Oupa giving me the thumbs up. Everything is ok, everything is going to be ok...

This is for all of you reading this who are divorced, who have to do this thing. This separation thing.
So, there I suddenly stand on the desert of tar that is the petrol station, with cars pulling in and out around me. Lex stands next to me. His hands hang down. My hands hang down. I wear sunglasses, but I feel my eyes tearing up. He knows they are. I am making gulping soft sobs. My heart is constricting, tight, loose, tight, loose. He knows it is. Maybe his is too.

He speaks of another chocochino - he hugs me right there in the middle of the cars pulling round us. We don't do that, we drive home. It is not them going. I wave them cheerily off on many an adventure. It is the leaving, now we drive over the bridge - and thats what I feel - the leaving and crossing over to the other side.

It is a place where I have no place - the world of their biological father - a world where they are not always at ease. But most of all, it is not mine. I am not able always to reach them there. I am dereft.

We drive in silence, and my husband offers only to drive me any place I want, Jeffreys Bay, Kareedouw. I feel bleak. I feel bleak. I only want to go home.

So, we take the winding road between the hills. He drives slowly, his hand on my thigh, my hand on his neck. My mind is struggling to find that place of peace. It is running back and forth, dodging me - that peace. I am sort of praying for it, but even prayer, right now, is illusive.

But when we get there, so that the town is dotted before us, we don't want to go home after all. Lex says it out loud, and so we end up at the only restaurant in town, and sit outside with a plate of chips and toasted sandwiches. It is school holidays, and busier than I have ever seen it ( five tables). I feel comforted. My husband and I enjoy each others' company.

By the time we open our back door we have settled down. The house is totally silent, but thats ok. The bedrooms are a mess, abandoned in the excitement of the departure. That is also ok. I plan to tidy their rooms while they are away - fresh linen and fresh flowers when they get back. Tidy cupboards and piles of clean clothes. Its always like that when they go away. Sometimes gifts await them on their pillows.

We move about , we plan our week. We wait. We resolve to enjoy ourselves. We resolve to work, to write, to work the garden, to eat what we like when we like. We wait. We wait.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Tale of Three Cakes

My birthday falls the day before my daughters'. Pretty bad planning really, as it is normally spent getting everything sorted for her. But this year was different. Everything is different in the Langkloof.

I had a full house. A family of seven arrived for a week, and the walls of our house stretched to accomodate them all. Thoughtfully they brought their bread machine, and their popcorn machine(!) and we generally all mucked in and produced meals three times a day. But when my birthday arrived, I was not allowed into the kitchen.

My husband believes in birthdays, and on them being a day off, if possible, for the birthday girl/boy. So, no kitchen duties for me. I was ordered out, to sit under the Syringa tree to await breakfast. It duly arrived and was delicious. By the time Lex was done his was stone cold (its quite something to cook for 9 big ones and a couple of littlies.)

After breakfast the first cake arrived. Our neighbour up the gravel road made it. She lives with her very old, invalid mother, in a house filled with the aroma of potpourri. She spends a few months every year in England, and for the rest brings England to the Langkloof for us all to enjoy. Hers is a land of thin china and crystal. A world of ironed and starched linen and lace, patchwork and tapestry. We all love the teas she hosts, delicate plates of frothy lemon meringue served with little silver folks, washed down with tea. Not surprising then that the first cake of the day arrived under a glass dome, a carrot cake, with lemon icing poured over and with a single pink rose as decoration in the centre.

The second cake of the day arrived while I was out in town. We have a friend who has a history of restaurants and coffee shops. Her cakes were known far and wide and she has blessed me with a cake before. Years ago it was she who baked the moist, chokkablok carrot cake, decorated with sprigs of lavender that was our wedding cake in Greyton.
This cake, however, was altogether different. A chocolate cake, sculpted in the form of a rose, with a thick chocolate sauce poured over and running down. Decoration was sprigs of mint leaves and delicate purple flowers dancing around the rim. Stunning!

I decided that these cakes could not be eaten in my cobwebbed, sagging ceiling kitchen, but only outside someplace, under the (cloudy) big sky.
Of cause the Kouga. I love the Kouga - so named for the range of slanting mountains it is in, the long gravel road that takes you through them. A place we venture into often, keeping on, down the slightly hair raising pass, down, down, to the river.

Georgia also loves the Kouga, especially the river. We pull off the road at the bridge, ignore the private property signs (how can a river really belong...) and often, with a group, find the bend, the cliffs soaring up and from a high point, the young at heart, jump shrieking into icy depths.

But not today. Today, my birthday, we paddle at the bridge. Our friends are nervous city folk, but Jethro takes off up the steep mountains that cradle us and before long is just a high speck. I shout and order him down from a cliffs edge - because it is my birthday - and I want to relax.

Relax and eat cake. We all have a slice of each, carrot and chocolate and have to lick our fingers because I have brought no forks or spoons to eat with. And then we drive home.

Lex has planned a fire, and rolls of boerewors lie coiled in wait, when the third cake arrives. It arrives singing, with the seven children family, on the back of a bakkie, bumping over our grass. Hair streaming, smiles (laughter), they unload, guitar to the fore, and the cake emmerges from inside the cab. The wind has picked up and the cake is chocolate and covered entirely in pink rose petals. It is handed to me and we rush to protect it, petals are flying, being lifted up in the wind as I rush inside.

So, my house is full, full, full, as I am given presents. The cake is cut and nothing remains, everyone has a slice. We chat and laugh and they all leave again - the wind has whipped up the fire outside.

While I later await my wors roll I gather my gifts and cards. Cards, here in the Langkloof are handmade, often collaged with hand written poetry, bible verses or heartfelt messages. All is beautiful. All is abundance, lightness and joy.

I sleep soundly. Georgias day is already planned for tomorrow, and I am not worried. It is a day filled with promises of picnics in orchards, and burgers at restaurants, all circled round with friends.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Christmas Story

We had no idea the Christmas play at the NG Kerk would be so crowded. We had seen the posters of invitation, a picture of the church, happy and pink with fruit decorating the roof, calling all to come. Inside the church there was hardly a seat to be had. Langkloofers are, for the most part, largish. Lex heard his name being called - a burly Langkloofer and his birdlike wife indicated that we should sit next to them. They shifted up and we sat down, realizing too late that it would be a tight squeeze. We snuggled ourselves into the pew, me on the outside, knowing that should we need to stand to sing, I would be released, like a cork from a bottle. But, for the moment I was settled, and getting as comfy as was possible (not really) I took in the scene.

The church was dressed in its Nativity Scene best. There was the star, large and silver and suspended over the 'stage', complete with palm fronds and, ofcause the manger.
I was glad to be there, with the church bell suddenly chiming, surrounded by the Afrikaans community of the Langkloof, and one or two, like us, inkomers. But, by now the Church felt somehow familiar - certainly friendly.

Silently the various actors took their places in the dimly lit pews. How comforting it was to see the Nativity players, young boys wearing their dressing gowns surely, and others with towel- like headdresses, some with crowns, some with scarves of chiffon,and there, naturally upfront, dear Joseph and Mary hovering over their most precious baby.

Christmas has, for us, been almost discarded. Firstly, I suppose, because Cape Town, or any big City, thrusts it down your throat from October, grinding away at the old jiggles, tinsel and Father Christmas hats, till you can't wait for it all to be done, dusted and packed away till next year.

And then theres the knowledge, somewhat newly learned amongst many Christians, that the whole thing is pretty Pagan any way (old Constantine doing his thing again!) and so lets toss the whole thing as a result. But I have lately begun to wander if the baby hasn't been tossed out with the bath water. And the thing is - this is a baby we really can't afford to toss , is it?

In fact, the rebel in me, (not to say thats a good thing) has lately, here in Twee Riviere began to fantasIze about putting lights up on our roof , and maybe even decorations in our tree.
I imagine our house, here on the edge of things, shining out cheerfully over the valley, a joyous celebration of the birth of this most special baby of all.

No doubt that would not be appreciated, and it will never happen, but the thing is, here in the Langkloof, I find my self having a great desire to do this thing again, this celebration.

It is a beautiful thing really - the Nativity. And the NG Kerks' version was an interesting one, tracing, as it did the lineage of our beautiful Christ. We were reminded of all the dodgy characters that God chose to use to bring forth the Messiah, Tamar, and Rahab, amongst others. One could not help to be, well, encouraged.

In fact I found, whilst watching - and yes, someones headgear slipped, the star suddenly began to bounce alarmingly and the sound system faded in and out, in the familiar tradition of these things - I found myself feeling inexplicably joyful. I looked around at the crowd of us, and knew, with a sudden clarity that God really does love us all. The other thing, which I whispered in Lex's ear, was a certainty I felt right at that moment - that surely there was a smile on the face of God.

We stood up to sing, and yes, I did catapult out into the aisle a little, and I struggled to read (without my specs) the Afrikaans words of old favourite carols, and so warbled along in snatches of English. If anyone heard I don't think they minded.

Its a greatly, hugely serious thing, the Nativity, but also contains so much joy.The Kerks Christmas Play conveyed that to me, when each player, with hands lifted high, sang out their songs with gusto.
Little girls, I loved your scarf dances, especially the bit when you ran down the aisle and one soft ,fluttering scarf caught me and the old chap behind me off guard, and slid quickly from his face to mine. We laughed out loud together.
And how I enjoyed those three wise men, red lantern led, and Barnard - well - what can anyone say about that dress...

But as we sang the closing Stille Naght and only the manger remained upfront , surrounded by the gifts that all the players had brought to lay before Him, I was grateful to be there, worshipping Him also.

No Christmas do is ever really done until some food and drink has been consumed and so we duly followed the crowds to the Kerksaal for 'refreshments.' Rows of white cups awaited us and piles of koeksisters, cold meatballs and those yummy toothpicks of cheese and pickled onions. We are English and unaccustomed to these delights. We held back through the thank you speeches, the bunches of flowers, milling about in a crowd of Nativity characters (the dominee still in THAT dress... )
And then we dived in, and with laden plates spoke our broken, happy Afrikaans to folk who begin to feel like friends and hoped they would forgive us for being so 'niks gewoont nie'.

But Christmas is a time of excess, traditionally, shall we say - celebrating such an outrageous act of God - Immanuel (God with us.)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Knead I say more...(some thoughts about bread)

I am by no means the best bread baker in Twee Riviere. It is sufficient to me that I do bake bread most of the time. It took me a while to figure it all out - the yeast, the tepid water, sugar or honey , to salt or not to. I read up various recipes and eventually settled on one - I forget whose it is, Nigella or Jamies or someone else.

My little gas oven was a challenge as well, as it really only has two temperatures, cool or hot. But, six months later I serve two fresh loaves every second day - and they always are well received. Here I could buy what we now call 'shop bread' but I try not to. Bread must be baked.

I like to work in my kitchen with my door open, at least the top half. Then I can see the two oak trees and the dry stone wall. I work on my table top with floury hands, kneading the dough until it springs back and I feel that it is ready for the pans. I set the pans to rise in the sun or on a heater and wait.

The smell from the oven alerts one to the bread being ready and the loaves are placed, steaming and covered by a cloth on the kitchen table. The first loaf never lasts long, and is eaten quickly with butter melting and homemade jam.

I have a friend who bakes 50cm dense wholewheaty loaves that she serves with her freshly churned butter, homemade cream cheese and preserves. Two or three slices fill the most starved of adolescences (and she has a few!). I love to join them at the long wooden table in their dimly lit kitchen, next to strings of corn and onions hanging from the ceiling. I love to eat that bread. I sit quietly chewing, snipping a blade of chives absentmindedly over my cheese. Hhhum...

A couple of people have delighted me by serving steaming challah bread (kitke) at the shabbat meal - which a few folk celebrate here. A long plait, shiny and golden ,it emerges from beneath its cloth after prayers, to be passed hand to hand. I break off a long chunk always and then feed myself ripped of pieces spread with butter. Yum...

I guess this is a good place to write about my other musings about 'our daily bread'.I have found a new understanding about Christ being just that in our life here in the Langkloof. I have participated in many communions - little melt in the mouth wafers, stale squares of white bread that have to be swigged down with tepid red grape juice, torn up matzos with heady red wine...

But none of it compares with the taste of Christ I have experienced here, in this life of faith and provision over the last six months. I have lived off Him here, in every mouthful of precious bread, in all its varieties. He has been the most nourishing and the most satisfying and I am grateful for that.

The bread experience has even extended to some folk having mastered using black Dover stoves - a sweaty business with an orange flame burning within - but warming of course in winter. The trick is to keep turning the bread pan - so that one side does not burn.The bread is crusty and solid and smoky.

Once we shared bread with friends on their veranda with the Kouga mountains as our backdrop. They ate my bread and we ate theirs and licked our lips appreciatively of each others newly learned expertise.

I am learning to make bread in a big black pot, cooked in a fire in an outdoor kitchen - camping style. These days we do not camp much and its good to make a fire in our front garden, with the glowing coals under the moon and the Syringa tree.

We cooked rotis out there once, when we ran out of gas and I had to complete my Indian curry in the black pot on the grid. The rotis puffed up and bore the marks of the grid criss cross over them. We make rotis often, and wrap them around bean curries and I remember working with Asian communities a long time ago.

That's really what bread is to me. Thinking back to Kalk Bay, ciabattas at Olympia Cafe. And now, my day old bread, toasted with some of my own homemade Marmalade can really not compete. But I know I am living a memory.

My daughter Georgia finds dough to be the most delightful thing in the kitchen. She always volunteers to create bread of some sort. Left alone, she rolls out flat bread which we cook in a pan over the gas flame. She is sprinkled with flour, as is the table, chairs and floor....

And so daily the provision of bread continues - I look forward to mastering fruit breads, crispy cracker breads, round breads made with rye and sweet cinnamon breads. The Langkloof is a great teacher, and me, a generally willing learner in this schoolroom with Him.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Kerk in the Kloof

Most South African towns have one. An NG Kerk that is. They stand in the centre of the town, often on high ground,surrounded by gardens, a marble obelisk or two, and have a huge white steeple, pricking the sky above.

As a rule I do not venture into them, or even near them really. They are part of a world that does not often intersect with mine. But, here in the Kloof, this Kerk path and mine have crossed a few Sundays ago

Due to my involvement with the Community Police Forum in which I represent a charity organisation connected to the Kerk I was asked to speak in the church service. Talking in front of people does not phase me, the idea of doing it in Afrikaans did. In the end I decided that good English was better than poor Afrikaans - so I said I would speak, but in English. The Dominee, who has become a friend, was not concerned.

So Sunday arrived and Lex came to support me. He is on new medication and promised to stay awake for my bit - the meds were knocking him out. I was grateful. I knew the Dominee would understand - he is that kind of Dominee. Kind.

Lex hauled out a clean shirt and chinos and got a little anxious about a tie - but in the end we went neat and clean, stopping for Lex to down a red bull - he felt exhausted. I so appreciated him coming with me.

He has memories of a similar church from his childhood - a high pulpit and even loftier sermons. This Kerk proved to be light and bright, simple and clean - with lots and lots of wood (maybe due to the Tsitsikamma forests just over the mountains). It has a feel of theatre in the round.

Churches often feel theatrical to me. with all the players in their place, the long maroon velvet curtains, the brocade and , in this particular church the row of men in black suits, white shirts and silvery ties. We were a little late but we found my Social Worker friend and slid into the pew next her.

Our turn came and I spoke. I wanted to talk about Jesus really, which would be appropriate, but I just wanted to speak of His love for humanity, especially the addicts, the alcoholics, the tossed away people of the Kloof. What I did speak of was the Agenda of the Forum, the illegal shebeens, the understaffed police station, the language issues. I tagged on somethings about Jesus being our Hope, the worlds Hope - but the word Love I didn't say - but I wanted to.

The Dominee spoke about Love though and I was grateful for a God who knows and completes our sentences for us.

We went to the Kerk that night as well. We took a whole lot of young people with us- because a little dramatjie was being performed and, well, drama (of the theatrical kind) is rare in the Kloof.

Two young adults performed. One we had briefly met when she was a waitress and we were just arrived in the Kloof. Then she had struck us as deep and sensitive and with eyes looking away from the Kloof for some bigger thing. So we were not surprised. Rumours had also informed us of some deeper tragedy to her existence. A true Drama queen - right here in the Kloof. And she was great.

There was an intensity and a sincerity to her performance, her poetry and in her voice when she sang.Her friend proved strong too, in her piece. I felt a deep and true emotion in response to their performance.

Most of all I was moved by two young woman writing from the Kloof with concern and passion about Crystal Meths and homeless people and deep,deep need. Their writing holds compassion, and here where, notoriously, compassion has often been lacking I felt hopeful. Maryka and (forgive me for forgetting your name) I salute you.

So the Kerk blessed my socks off that Sunday - and will do so again sometime soon I am sure. And Barnard too - hey -the dominee who dares....

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Blommetjie in the Field

Some people call Twee Riviere the land flowing with milk and honey. I'm not sure about the honey - lots of hives but not much honey (stories of bee disease and drought abound - maybe they just don't want to share...) but milk, now, that's another story.

Milk truly does flow here. We are often blessed with gifts of it. Bottles arrive, sometimes with a thick layer of cream settled on the top. 'Just say if you need milk" friends generously offer,'I am throwing milk away!"

We hesitated about acquiring our own cow. We have admiringly watched our friends herding their cows and calves from field to field. We have been party to wars over pasture, heard tales of grazing theft - not to mention seeing posses of men out and about searching for a bull that has been 'borrowed' without asking to make merry with someones cows. The dairy feuds abound in the Kloof.

We watched all with interest, choosing instead to shoot footage of pretty milkmaids bringing the cows home, long skirts with muddy hems, bare feet running, long switches in hand to tickle wandering rumps into walking and not wandering off.

Our children often assist, and have told me they know how to milk. Indeed the milkmaids around here boast of a superior strength in their fingers. Boys, it is said, balk when challenged to arm wrestle a pretty maid - they are known to mercilessly beat them all! Such are the benefits of milking!

So, we didn't think we had much need of our own cow, except that one needs abundance if you are to master all the other dairy skills - butter making, cheese making and yogurt. As much as I want to master all these skills, at the moment I wrestling with pumpkins (my husband calls them triffids) that are threatening to completely overrun my garden...

So the dairy skills must wait until I have defeated some of the gardening challenges. We felt content without a cow - that is, until Blommetjie.

Blommetjie belongs to a friend and became a victim of both a grazing feud and a grass shortage. We stay on land that has no feud (except for Louis sheep that pass through willy nilly and chomp our baby olive trees!) But otherwise - we have GRASS!

So Blommetjie came to stay. We also have shelter and our friend secured it all a little more and Blommetjie was ours! Well sort of. We think she is a particularly pretty cow, and we were smitten. Actually Lex was. Her soft brown eyes got to him, her gentle swishing tail. She became the udder woman.

And we got milk, fresh from our shed. It was wonderful. She was tied up on a long rope because we have no fence and at first she didn't mind. But after a few days we noticed her pulling on her rope and felt that she might be getting to the end of her tether.

Out of concern Lex put her into our front garden enclosure, where, due to no lawn mower, the grass is long and green. We struggled to get her through the gate - later she couldn't get out fast enough. We think our garden furniture startled her.

It wasn't long before we really started to realize that all was not well in our field. Our friend came with weed eater and lawn mower, saying the grass had got too long and fluffy and Blom didn't like it. Soon we had a neatly mowed meadow - but all was not well in the garden with Blom.

The end came one morning when, from his office window, Lex sent an urgent text to our friend. Blom was bellowing loud and long. Something was up. Lex came outside and looked at her intently . Blom looked back at him and mooed like no cow I have heard before or since. Lex turned to me, perplexed ' Maybe she's just feeling moody,'he said.

But that was the beginning of the end. Blom was moved that same day. Whisked off to greener pastures. The grass really was greener on the other side. We have been told she will return - when our grass grows out and they organize a 'zapper 'to keep her in.

We miss her. Her stall is empty, the field is bare. For a moment there we felt we should get a cow of our own. But now, knowing what we know, and remembering that look in her eye as she looked at my husband....I'm not sure if I'm ready for that much competition.

Community Relations in the Kloof

It did not take long for us to realize that there are some very serious community issues in the Kloof. It was probably on the first or second night here when we were roused by the sounds of drunken squabbling and swearing on the street outside. Now, we are in danger of getting used to it. It happens on weekends mostly, when people are not working. Men and women stagger home, often with babies strapped to their backs, little toddlers screaming after them, howling for attention and being ignored.

I wanted to do something, but as usual its that 'what to do' and 'where do I start' thing that paralyses one, as well as being that dreaded 'overwhelmed by the hugeness of the problem'. So I did nothing and the weeks passed.

Word spread of my community development past, and I also asked questions about what was being done and by whom, the usual answers came back - not that much and those that were doing something felt that they were only touching the tip of the iceberg of the problems. Two of these people arrived at my door at 7.30 on a very rainy winters morning. I had sort of told God that if He wanted me to get involved in some way He would need to bring it to my door. So He did, and me still in my pyjamas!

As a result of that meeting I now sit on the Community Police Forum for the Langkloof. i went to the first meeting with my Social Worker friend who rather surprised me by proposing me as Vice - Chair! I was even more surprised when I was voted in! I guess I was suspicious - 'these people are desperate' I thought. My photo appeared in the local freebie newspaper, as usual the tallest, blurred in the back row.

It had been a while since I was on a committee and I had to remember procedure and get the handshakes right and quickly control my shocked glance when a black member called me 'madam' and I forgot it was procedure...

To date to record for lateness for a meeting is 2 and a half hours and I have pitched twice in one day for a meeting only to have it postponed and then postponed again and then postponed to the following day! I confess I apologised, anyway I was my daughters birthday and maybe it was postponed again..

I try not to be impatient or disillusioned and I am determined to believe that change will come about. Turns out we have a police station under serious investigation, an acting Station Commander who leaves me and others astounded by his antics and sheer incompetence.

But I remain inspired and, I must confess highly entertained. Its good to be the only whitey often, picking up stompies of Xhosa conversations, limping through my own bad Afrikaans - although all business is conducted in English. Its good to hear of the insurmountable problems and issues that the poor grapple with on a daily bases and resolutely decide that surely something can be done.

I am often taken by surprise, like when the local Councillor arrived, collapsed in a chair and a second later the meeting was disrupted as a loud cellphone ring (Brenda Fassie) emanated from the depths of her bosom. We all paused and stared as she groped into her cleavage and fished out a rather large and old cellphone. Sitting next to her I glimpsed her cover picture - was it her in huge white framed spectacles? The meeting resumed. And when the meeting ran hours over time and the police produced trays of clingfilm wrapped cold meat sandwiches, scotch eggs and friend spring rolls. I guzzled about ten little spring rolls, tired, frustrated as I was, but they tasted so of South Africa that I guess, after that, I feel I can swallow anything.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Media in the Middle of Nowhere

We are taking a short break from the Media School. Today should be class and I sort of miss it, but also need a break. Actually we are in a time of waiting (again). This school has been run on prayer and provision and right now the provision has paused....We have no edit suite and the computers in our house have mostly gone on the blink.blink.blink...We are terribly grateful for the wonderful camera we use, on loan from Phil Cunningham from Sunrise productions, the gifts of film from many and the one big light from Ants and Peter - we love you all.

The idea in the beginning was to make dvd's on sustainable living. The inspiration came from a family right up the valley who really are doing it - living off the land - with seven children. They are a picturesque bunch - all long hair and floating skirts and with a sound track straight from the heavenly hosts. They jokingly refer to themselves as the von Trapps. Because they sing ofcause - all of them.I decided to teach Jethro to do camera, but he needs buddies, and before long there were six of them. Six adolescents - and me - and Lex when he could spare the time. He is our expert, for the rest we learn as we go along.

The amazing thing about children in a hidden place like this is that they grow up largely without the influences you might find in the city. They are fresh - like new sponges. It wasn't long before I realized what a privilege it is to work with them, and a responsibility.

I hadn't planned to show them film really. Mainly bacause there is no movie house less than two hours away, and no DVD store to speak off. But then ,along came the dominee Barnard Steyn with a colection of cinema nouveau films and about 20 Rob Bells. And so we began.

Last week we watched Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring and it felt like the Langkloof. Water wars, beautiful young girls skipping up mountains and swimming in streams. But mostly I realized proudly that many of the shots could have been filmed by one of our six students. They know most of the rules, they love the land, the light and mostly have filmed dreamy sequences amongst arum lillies and down paddling in streams. They have shot each other riding horses, sipping milk in forest glades and running up green hills to picnic blankets - just like in the Sound of Music. They look into the camera lense with a disarming innocence, and film scenes through it with the same outragrous sweetness. Outrageous for this day and age. Mostly I leave them to play with shots, watching from a distance, occasionaly interfering when totally necessarily. Watching the rushes of the day normally causes much laughter, especially when watching the boys footage, normally action stuff, silly boys - but lately showing a gentle touch.

We now need more than one edit suite - open source software on a computer we share with Lex. No doubt our prayers will be answered - so we abide for now.
These months with my six, Jethro, Hannah,Rivkah, Jonan (from Twee Riviere), Alex (from the Kouga) and Matthew(from Joubertina) have made precious memories for me. I think we all want to continue, keenly developing ourselves into a production house. We have learnt to wash eat others feet, being directors, camerapeople,grips,wardrobe and talent too when required. We have travelled in the trusty (rusty) Cruiser to locations deep in the Kouga and the Hoek. We have written scripts, drawn up shot lists, filmed wide shots, close up, pans and tilts and had plenty of laughs. We have watched films in the dominees lounge, eating marmite cake and sipping coffee and look forward to more to come.


Notes from the other half

Its been 6 months in the Langkloof and we feel its time for me to add my voice to all that has been happening in Twee Riviere. I think back to our first ten days when we had no water or electricity....and I guess my overriding emotion is one of gratitude. So many things to be grateful for. I have spent a lot of time in our kitchen, with its falling down ceiling, grass growing through the floorboards, and yes, the gratitude wells up. We have experienced Gods provision here in an incredible way, interfacing with Him in ways that I would not have missed.

Only the cook knows sometimes how miracles work out over the stove, when you have no money and only kudu (which you have never cooked before - a gift from a random hunter..) an onion and cabbage and what else, oh yes some garlic. An interesting aside is that you have guests to stay - from a city far away - and they really have no idea.

Guests have been blessings always, although a challenge, and as I stepped over the threshold to our freezing kitchen I would pray fervently for help from above. Lex and the family say I have produced some of my most tasty creations in the last six months.

I have learnt about processing fresh produce when it arrived at my door in such abundance as gifts from friends that I cooked and froze and dug up cookbooks that I had never used before for inspiration.

During these culinary adventures Georgia and Jethro were often close at hand, helping to slice,dice and peel. Both have become able cooks - kneading bread, baking muffins and learning many other skills besides.

The homeschooling continues with interesting activities having been added to the curriculum. Jethro learns agricultural skills from farming friends. He is now nifty with irrigation systems, planting, fence building and last but not least, assisting in the slaughter and butchering of an ox. Both children were part of this experience and happily tucked into the heart and kidneys which were served up for lunch.

I awaited Spring with great enthusiasm, deciding to dig up a piece of land and plough in some  rich compost kindly delivered to our door. Jethro fenced it off, as protection against marauding sheep, horses or cows and soon enough we were given the go ahead from those that know, that we could indeed now plant. With great excitement we sowed our seeds and then waited. How they exceeded all expectations! Pumpkin leaves as big as dinnerplates and then larger...zucchinis bearing golden flowers, little white flowers on bean plants. We water them at 6 in the morning in the coolness, wetting our hands beneath the glistening spray after fingers get muddy pulling weeds. I cannot beleive that we will eat tomatoes, beans, peppers,strawberries, spinach and beetroot from this little scruffy patch.

And so we stay in our rented house and now the heat is building, my washing is crispy from the line when I bring it in. The dark interiors of my house suddenly make sense - no longer freezing, but cool and so dim that my eyes have to adjust from the dazzle outside. My heart starts its summer sing song. How I love the hissing heat of Africa.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Spring in Twee Riviere

Life in Twee Riviere is one non-stop roller coaster ride. Small things become huge, big things become giants and people loom large in the very focused view finder one tends to have in this beautiful valley.

It is two months since my last blog - and that is not because nothing has happened, but rather because so much has happened! During these two months I had one of the most amazing birthdays of my life, attended a truly amazing "Mad Hatter's Party", attended wonderful music evenings and between all these events I have been submerged in a sea of unexpected work - which has been a blessing although the stress of meeting deadlines sometimes reminded me of life in the city.

On the morning of my birthday, a Sunday, which I thought would be a quiet day, a bakkie full of the Grobler family arrived at 7AM. As I stumbled to the front door, the entire clan (all 9 of them), broke into song from the back of the bakkie and serenaded me (complete with guitarist!). They then disembarked and carrying baskets to the house set up our garden table with a breakfast feast. It was the most wonderful and blessed way to start the day! The breakfast lasted all morning, with friends popping in and offering good wishes. We then decided to head for the Kouga river with about 8 people in the Cruiser, and everyone enjoyed their time in the cold but refreshing water.

A week later we had another birthday - this time it was Linda's. She decided she wanted a "Mad Hatter's Party" and what fun this was. Loads of people arrived in the
wierdest and jolly hats. We had breakfast in their orchard, which was full of blossoms for spring. Again another blessed day!

The lessons we are learning are becoming clear to us. God blesses us bountifully, even in our times of testing. The secret is to keep trusting and to no loose faith. No-one promised us an easy road - and we are reminded of one of the first things we were told when we arrived here: "The Langkloof is not for sisies!" That was meant to be encouragement?!

Times got tough, and even tougher and then really tough! We are trying to teach 6 students the rudiments of taking and creating video images - we have an old wonky PC that is running Linux and Ubunutu Studio for editing - and it crashes at least once a day! But the students are amazing - their creativity does not cease to astound us. We only have an unprotected microphone on the camera, so sound recordings in the open are a challenge, we use a car windscreen sunshade as a reflector - but we are getting super results. It all goes to show - you can do amazing things with no gear.

Finally, I have had to come to terms with my own battles. I was diagnosed bipolar more than 15 years ago - and have been in denial since then. Things came to a point a few weeks ago that I needed to seek help - and Michelle and I drove to our old doctor in Sedgefield (whom I trusted and who attended at my Pancreatitis operation). Driving over 230kms to see a doctor is crazy - but it was the best thing I have done for a long time. After diagnosis he prescribed medication (unbelievably expensive! but God provides - this time via my wonderful sister) which has changed my life. So now we live in a state where I belive the Holy Spirit will use this medication to heal me.
To read more about Bipolar disorder, check out my blog in the links panel on the left of this blog.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Twee Riviere Media School

The School under the Syringa Tree
Michelle has been on an exciting adventure and journey with 6 of the young people from the village.

It all started with a vision to make a series of DVD's on "Sustainable Living". We were inspired by the Grobler family who live on a small holding near us, who are an amazing testimony on how a family of 9 can live off the land and support themselves. With virtually no financial income, they live a happy and fulfilled life filled with praise and worship, songs and music, wonderful food and the most precious fellowship possible.

Phil Cunningham of Sunrise Productions, kindly lent us a old but trusty JVC DV camera and a tripod. Without lights, boom mike, video monitor or any other accessories - we were going to make a video series, script, shoot, and edit (on open source sofware on Linux computers!)

However as we discussed and planned the shoot, we realised that we needed a crew.
So Michelle decided to get 6 of the homeschool children (including 2 who had just finished school) and she would offer to teach them all about media. And so the school under the tree came into existence!

Twice a week the students meet at our house, and receive about 5 hours of instruction, interspersed with workshops, video viewings etc. They have had instruction on introduction to film making, workshoping a concept, technique, scriptwriting, storyboarding, production. And will still do camera, lighting, and post production (as we try to acquire the equipment we need to complete the course!

We found a wonderful resource in the village - the local NG pastor has a passion for film, and has a large library of classic and art movies, as well as an extensive collection of Rob Bell videos which have been very helpful in showing technique and creative approaches to filming.

The students are excited and keen - and are discovering talents they did not know they had! We have talented story board artists, musicians, writers etc.

Our first episode will be all about milk - and the entire process of keeping a cow, milking a cow, making butter and cheese etc will be filmed and will culminate in a festive meal in the garden with milk tarts, cheeses, homemade breads and butter etc. (In fact every episode will end in a feast! Just what hungry film crew need!)

The Begging Bowl!
If anyone has or knows of anyone who has old or redundant video equipment - we are desperately looking for a video monitor, some lights, a boom mike and redundant computers we can convert into Linux machines (if they do not have legal operating systems) - we need machines to edit on. (as for tape drives...that would be a bonus). We even need discarded DV tapes which we are prepared to re-use for training.
We would welcome extended loans, delayed purchases or donations - but we are desperate for gear!

Our long term goal is to formalise the course and hopefully in about 12-18 months we trust that we will have a formal organised media school offering video and computer training in a village atmosphere. Watch this space!!!!

To be humble is hard!


The months are flying by. We have settled into the valley and this is becoming home! New friends feel like old friends. One starts feeling known in shops and along the road. The terror of "How are we ever going to make it here!" is slowly being replaced with the warm comforting sense of belonging and the deep desire to succeed right here and nowhere else.

The single biggest growth in me has been learning to rely on God for EVERYTHING! We have no money, we fell behind with our rent, our electricity, our phone, everything. For 3 months we lived on faith and gifts and blessings. I needed to accept that God can and will provide in everything. The wonderful generosity of our friends still makes me feel very humble.
Then the wheel started turning... Web work started coming from unexpected sources... Small amounts of money would flow in and I started being able to catch up on bills and expenses. Having enough to buy filter coffee was cause for celebration!

I have never appreciated the taste of fresh beetroot, broccoli, spinach, coriander, butternut as we appreciate them now. Freshly picked in the Kouga, or from the lands around us - the gifts kept coming and I learnt that most important lesson - receiving is also OK - I have always been a giver - but to receive is very hard for me.

One of my highlights of our time in Twee Riviere was being asked by new and dear friends Dino and Rea to baptise their wonderful daughter Rain.
We were phoned and told that Rain wanted to be baptised and the baptism would take place in the river at the bottom of the Kouga. It is a beautiful place and fortunately it was a warm day! It is such a blessing to see the way that Christ can work in a young person's life and the wonderful annointing on her life. We pray for her life to be very blessed and joyful.

We have made such wonderful friends here and the wonderful blessings of our old friends who come to stay and share in this promised land has been such a pleasure and honour.
The children call our house the railway station - visitors keep arriving at the door - and we welcome every one - it is a time of ministering and sharing. We often sit outside in our front garden, under the Syringa tree and our garden slopes off into the main road to the farms to our right. So everyone tends to come past us on their way to town or whatever. And we sit and wave at the passing parade, and they wave to us... most people we do not know - but we still greet. Many people pass, and then turn in for a visit, coffee or tea and a chat. It is hard to get work done - but the fellowship is amazing!

We have started selling pancakes at the Talent Market - and that was a hoot! I suffered performance anxiety when all our potential customers surrounded me and my pan - and all my pancakes stuck to the pan! "Please show us how you flip them" I was being asked - but nothing flippen happened! My dear wife came to the rescue and calmed frayed nerves and a temper tamper about wrong mixtures, bad pan, too high heat from the gas flame - and my conviction that all the pancake batter was plotting against me! We finally sold about 30-40 pancakes - with Nuttela fillings and at the next Talent market - we had mastered all the problems ... I got Jethro to make the pancakes - and I sold them!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

One Month later

A month has passed. What changes we have seen in ourselves.
There has been joy, there have been tears, there has been laughter, there have been prayers. We have met the most amazing people, we have been shown such kindness and love, we have learnt new skills and we have learnt a new way to live!

Michelle has soared to new heights as a domestic goddess! She spends large parts of her day in the kitchen perfecting her baking and cooking skills. Learning how to bake in a small gas stove has its challenges! But the house is constantly filled with the smells of fresh bread, muffins, rusks, cakes, more bread, soups, stews, porridge .... it never stops. There is no deli here - if you want fresh whole wheat bread, muffins etc - you must make them. There have been spectacular flops caused by a too hot oven - but then the dogs must eat too! Currently Michelle is learning to make marmalade - we wait for the results in anticipation.

Folks have been so kind - we keep having people popping in with gifts of vegetables, fruit, freshly milked milk, homemade butter and cheese etc. Keeping up with the abundance of huge spinach, leaks, carrots, potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, cabbages and whatever else is growing, is a challenge. We have found new activities like sitting in the garden overlooking the surrounding mountains, laborously cleaning large packets of Jerusalem artichokes - but the end result, courtesy of Jamie Oliver, was a huge hit!

The children have moved into a new realm of living. Jethro is always heading out, deadly machette over his shoulder, to chop down black wattle on our grounds or on the land of friends. He and his friend Scott spent last weekend, largely in the rain, cutting and chopping large areas of our alien "forest". He cannot get enough of being out and being physical. Last night Michelle and I were driving down a country road - and there before us was this image from Thomas Hardy, two boys with sticks across their shoulder, muddy boots, herding 4 rather large cows among the orchards - one of the boys was an extremely dirty, but happy, Jethro. He has become totally transformed! Georgia is forever visiting other dirty kids, playing with sheep, border collie puppies, working in vegetable gardens, and generally getting as muddy and dirty as only Georgia can!
In between all the fun, Michelle is also managing to school the children - and they are working very hard.
Then we have also started helping Julian and Karen build their house, so there has been much breaking of rocks, packing foundations, filling sand bags, and real manual labour. Again Jethro has totally committed himself to the challenge and works like a Trojan (how hard do Trojans work?)
We are hoping to start our building soon. Just the small matter of raising finance... But we are trusting in the Lord for His provision. As we do about every day. We have learnt to live on very little - and with all the vegetables we get, we need very little. As Michelle once remarked - "Out here you have none of the distractions and support systems we had in Cape Town, so one is forced very quickly to face yourself, and to find out who you are in Christ." There is no security blanket - life must be confronted face to face.

Friday, May 08, 2009

The First Week

Originally uploaded by lex.faure
This has been a week of transition, of trauma, of ecstasy, of tears, of mercy and grace!

We arrived at Twee Riviere on the 1st of May - with Tazz and Cruiser loaded with all the possessions we could not fit into the truck - plus three dogs and the family. It was a long and slow journey - punctuated by the enormous realization that we were actually on our way to a new home and Cape Town was no longer our home.... fear gripped me - mixed with ecstasy - a very strange combination which surely must characterise us all as a bunch of nutters! But then we take on the mantle of "fools for God" with enthusiasm!

The house we moved to had no water or electricity - so we have endured a week of fetching and carrying water for such menial tasks as washing, cooking and even filling the toilet cistern.
Candle lit nights were at first quaint and a novelty - but became a little frustrating at times! However the house was rather romantic in the flickering light.

Today - we finally managed to get both water and electricity sorted - after 1 week of living here! The Lord answered our prayers in the form of a local Eskom official, called Werner, who lived in our street an achieved in 1/2 an hour what had eluded me for 2 weeks (I started trying to get ourselves connected 2 weeks ago).

The locals have been wonderful. Within hours of arriving a neighbour arrived at our door with a home-made fruit tart. Another arrived with home-made bread and home-made apricot jam. We were fed by Karen an Julian amongst their 6 children, when making food was a remote possibility for us.

But the beauty! The serenity! The mists in the morning - the extreme chill in the evening and early morning... the sheep and cows that are giving our city dogs nightmares... the tractors that pass our house on their way to pick fruit.. the children out all day on their bicycles (making friends and declaring this is the best place they have ever lived in!)... These are the moments that are changing our lives and are blessing us with the miracle of God's plans for each one of us.

It is not an easy road. Money is almost non-existent - and we are probably going to have to sell our Tazz to finance building our house - but it is all about redefining what is important in life.

I went to a prayer meeting this morning with some locals - and it took from 10AM to nearly 2PM - but we were treated with scones and cakes and much coffee in an atmosphere of brotherhood which I had not experienced since I lived in Greyton.

We still have a long way to go - and the walk will be interesting - but God is good and we are excited by the prospects that lie ahead!

The road ahead will be full of many challenges, and one of the locals pessimistically informed me that "The Langkloof is not for sissies!" - but we have the conviction that we were called here for a purpose and that we look to God, and not to man for our help, our provision and our strength. With faith we WILL conquer the obstacles - and we are looking forward to much joy and laughter in our new home town!

Monday, April 27, 2009


We have been released!

We have been wonderfully blessed and will be able to send our furniture and possessions to Twee Riviere.

Much preperation and planning is needed to be ready by Thursday when the move will take place. Our concern is that rain and cold is forecasted for this day - but nothing will stop us from heading off to the promised land!

Our new rented home will be our place of refuge until our house is built - and the owners have been so kind and blessed to us - we rejoice in the way that the Lord touches people's hearts!

Our prayers for the last few months have been that the Lord will enable this move to take place - and now we are at this point - and our flesh responds in fear and anxiety! But we know the Lord has called us to this new chapter in our lives - and we need to trust in him for the fulfilment of the vision and the dream. We are leaving our support base, our friends and even our financial prospects - but either there is a God or we are living in a vacuum. And we KNOW there is a God, an almighty God who makes the impossible possible. We have seen this repeatedly in our lives - we have had miracles of provision when food and electricity and petrol have run out - and suddenly - someone knocks on our door and delivers 20 bags of groceries! Or we are filled with doubt that we will have the finances to move - and the month is coming to an end - and we are given a gift that meets all our needs. Or we are weak - and He makes us strong, we are sick and He heals us. We seek confirmation of his plans and someone phones us with an exact confirmation. We read a verse and pray for confirmation - and someone phones us (who we have met once) and tells us that the Lord has laid a scripture on her heart - and she quotes us exactly the same scripture. We run out of petrol and we receive a gift to fill our tank!

God is good - we just need to open our eyes to see all that He is doing for us each day!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Our timing and God's timing

I often wonder why God created time for us when He often ignores time!

I think that waiting on God must be one of most believer's biggest struggles. We are repeatedly told to "abide" and to "wait on the Lord's timing". We are told His time is not our time - so trying to understand God's timing is futile. Not very helpful when you are feeling frustrated and desperate to move on! Sometimes we burn inside to get to that next step which we feel the Lord has laid on our heart and which we want to follow. But when .... when will we move on?

This is a bit how we feel at the moment! We have finally been released from our lease (the landlord kept our deposit - but of course we love him!) But now we do not have the funds to move... So we are waiting on God - although little bits of work have suddenly started coming in - we are living a daily bread sort of life - and there is no greater way to ensure that one is constantly on your knees praying! I believe God brings us to this place so that we truly learn to trust and have faith that nothing is about us and everything is about Him. It is so hard to truly trust - when you are knee deep in caviar and unlimited credit limits!

"Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them." Mathew 6:26. I cling onto these words of Christ - and we are blessed repeatedly by how the Father constantly feeds and clothes us. But would we really understand these scriptures if we were not looking each day for evidence of God's grace and mercy to us? I would not change our situation for anything at the moment - it is a wonderful school room - and we are learning from our Father.

We are excited at our vision of a place of rest for all who may need it. We feel led that we should offer a place where people can stay and be renewed and healed without needing to pay for this time of healing - and just as we have often benefitted from the compassion of others - so we too feel the need to show compassion and love to all who need it. This will also give us the freedom to minister and share the gospel with our guests - and what we will ask in return, is that people help in the gardens which will be an indispensable part of the vision. We will create a large and fruitful vegetable and herb garden - both to feed ourselves and and to feed others.

It is our goal to find the healing and restorative qualities of herbs and plants - which God created in every living thing - and we will explore traditional and local remedies where possible. This could be a very exciting and fruitful research and we arelooking forward to this exciting journey of discovery.

But in the meantime - we wait.... soon we will be in the Langkloof ... but right now - God wants us to abide in Him - and we do this joyfully!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A time of waiting. Learning to "abide".

A month has gone past since we thought we would have started our new life in Twee Riviere in the Langkloof. It has been a month of waiting and learning to trust God in every aspect of our lives.

We are still struggling to be released from our lease in Fish Hoek - and we feel like the Jews must have felt when Pharaoh would not release them from Egypt! I keep wanting to cry - Pharaoh - let your people go!

We have been waiting for God's provision to make the move - the quotes we received to move us to the Langkloof were ridiculous! So one day we just went out and hired a 3.5m trailer, loaded it with all our boxes and slowly headed to the farm in our 22 year old Land Cruiser!

We are now back in Cape Town - waiting to move the rest of our furniture to the Langkloof. It is a time of prayer and trusting in the Lord to provide in every possible way. We are in his hands and his plans for us our our plans.

During this time we have been reading a lot - and the book L'Abri, by Edith Schaeffer has been a wonderful and anointed inspiration.The writings of Francis Schaeffer are extraordinary - and their work in Switzerland is a wonderful testimony of God at work.

We believe that God is directing us to create a place of rest and restoration for anyone who needs God's love and caring. We would like to build a place where anyone can find healing and recovery, through the outpouring of Christ's love and the power of the Word.

We believe that God is making his purposes known to us -and we are starting to understand why God wants us in the Langkloof. Our only desire being to do His will - and to ensure that His will is also ours.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Twee Riviere

A lot has happened in the last two months. Michelle and I have been blessed with a wonderful contract writing concepts for a proposed TV series for Animal Planet. This has been exciting and fun! The contract ends this month - and we again trust the Lord for provision for the future.

It has been such an exciting journey! And the blessings keep flowing. But the events of the last few weeks has started us on a brand new adventure.

We have been praying for guidance about where the Lord wants us to be, and what His plans for us are. Without seeking or striving, doors started opening and invitations were extended to us to see people we hardly knew.

As a result we made the journey to Twee Riviere, near Joubertina in the Langkloof. Neither Michelle or I had ever been here, and it was the last place in the world we would have thought of visiting. We went to visit Julian and Karen Heim, whom we had met briefly at Calvary Chapel some months previously. Our visit was based on a prompting from the Lord and has resulted in us moving to Twee Riviere!

We have had overwhelming confirmation in the Word, and in prayer, that we must move to this small community, where we will build a simple house on 1.5 Hectares of land we have been offered, we will strive to be self sufficient and we feel that we have a calling to minister to the community. We are called to share Paul's revelation of the Christ within to a divided and in many cases, a broken community.
How we will live and support ourselves is in God's hands - but we will be living in Twee Riviere from March 2009! And we are excited and filled with joy at this next adventure in our walk with the Lord!

From Media and IT, to building a house and farming the land - life is exciting!
Now if anyone has some spare doors, windows, plumbing and building supplies......!!