Yesterday, friends Mike and Patty arranged for Ant and me to join them for Christmas lunch under the magnificent trees of the Tokai Arboretum, with catering by the tearoom there, Lister’s.
Midsummer in Cape Town can be hot, but this was one of those mild, magical sunny days that sometimes occur after rainy and cloudy weather. Our chosen shady spot was as close as can be to perfection.
First item on the agenda was the opening of the first bottle of wine by Wineou. He can be a bit of a klutz but he managed to achieve this with a minimum of fuss. But after he had poured a couple of glasses he felt the need to display his cleverness in selecting a bottle that combined his preference (Sauvignon Blanc) and the lady’s (Chardonnay). This involved removing the dishcloth he’d wrapped round it to keep it cool in the stainless steel wine cooler, and holding the bottle horizontal for all to see the label.
After all had acknowledged his wisdom, some spoilsport pointed out that he had managed to pour half of the wine onto the festive red tablecloth. Right in front of a lady who can be quite a picky person for very little provocation. After she’d moved to the other end of the table the meal proceeded without incident, apart from some witticisms from the owner of the restaurant. Luckily the plastic surface of the table beneath the wet tablecloth had been designed to withstand rain, so no permanent damage ensued.
Sitting on a plastic chair behind a tree nearby was a security guard. He told me that his job was to watch the forest for approaching baboons. Apparently they had taken quite a fancy to some of the cuisine and liked to drop in at lunchtime. This time the baboons stayed away.
But I have experienced the fun of sharing a meal with an uninvited baboon – at the Black Marlin on the False Bay coast where most people like to sit outside and enjoy the view. The last time this happened a baboon was grabbing the usual bread slices and sugar sachets, and would have soon run away. But a brave tour guide at a nearby table decided to hurry the baboon on its way by shocking it with his Taser. This caused the creature to go so berserk that all the diners had to be ushered inside. The one benefit of all this was that it gave the tourists quite a lot to talk about afterwards.
Anyway, the meal in the forest was marvellous, and the walk afterwards through the forest was magical – with artist Patty pointing out the beautiful patterns in the bark of some of the Australian trees. We are not great lovers of Australian vegetation here, especially the Port Jackson Wattle which was imported to bind the sand of the Cape Flats. Previously this stretch of land had been covered by indigenous fynbos, but the early Dutch settlers who were mostly ignorant peasants found that the fynbos made excellent firewood. These geniuses even used to rip it out by the roots. The result of all this was that the Cape Flats became an area of shifting sand dunes, and it was difficult to farm or get roads through. Eventually, after the British had occupied the Cape, one of the early British governors decided to import various species of Australian bush to help bind the soil. This worked like a charm. In fact, a bit too well. Like most alien species in new countries the wattle has become a problem – it’s crowding out the natural vegetation and we’re trying to get rid of it by various means. One of them is by using a pest which was imported after careful testing. This is a gall wasp which causes cancer-like growths to occur in the infected trees. And the trees eventually die. I don’t like to think of anything having a long, slow death; but I console myself with the thought that it is Australians we’re talking about here.
This morning the bright spark hosting the local talk radio station told us that listeners had sent SMSs correcting his earlier utterances. Apparently today is no longer officially known as Boxing Day in South Africa. He informed us that its correct name is now “Day of good wool”. I thought that this had a medieval, romantic ring to it, like “Day of good cheer” or “good beer”.
South Africans often have trouble pronouncing the “I” sound. When a Gautenger gets hold of an expression like “high five” it often comes out as “hah fahve”. But we know what they mean, bless them. And I knew that the announcer meant to say “Day of Goodwill”. But somehow this idea of a day of good wool has stuck with me and cheered me up no end.
Be as much as you can in the open air without fatigue. – Sydney Smith
Take a short view of human life not farther than dinner or tea. – Sydney Smith