En Train de

“Q: Where shall we go? A: To the railway.”

The Railway Children by E Nesbit

In French grammar we learn a present progressive form of the verb to be, describing an action you are doing, an action on-going: en train de.

I’m sitting on a Virgin Train rushing headlong in a northerly direction, bound for Kingston upon Hull – UK City of Culture 2017. I’m going to see my little East Yorkshire family. Continue reading En Train de

Our short interlude into the lives of 12 walkers

“It is always hard to see the purpose in wilderness wanderings until after they are over.”

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

wild coastBy popular demand, I give you our 12 fellow travellers on our South African #roadtrip:

‘Petrol Man’: outside Bloemfontein:
We took a country road towards the Lesotho mountains. TomTom was not pleased. Petrol Man explained that his car had run out of petrol. In parts of the Free State you get the feeling that you’re driving from the middle of nowhere to the middle of nowhere. So we drove on. Eventually we came to a juncture. There was’t even a tiny pin-prick of a suggestion of a village, but with nothing else to suggest we turned down the dust track. What materialised eventually was a twilight-zone-like-derelict-one-stop-hamlet consisting of a road, 6 dwellings, a couple of people and a petrol station! Continue reading Our short interlude into the lives of 12 walkers

The Journey, not the Destination: Goats, Wine, Mountains and Mafia #SAroadtrip

“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone,” said Gandalf. 
“I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them,” said our Mr. Baggins.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien 

road trip south africa

We were about 60km outside Port Edward when we realised that we might actually be in real danger. Continue reading The Journey, not the Destination: Goats, Wine, Mountains and Mafia #SAroadtrip

Paris when it sizzles at 38 deg C

“Along the Paris streets, the death-carts rumble, hollow and harsh. Six tumbrels carry the day’s wine to La Guillotine. All the devouring and insatiate Monsters imagined since imagination could record itself, are fused in one realisation, Guillotine.”

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

pantheon parisWe walked slowly, our eyes fixed on the domed roof. The headphone-thingy talked about symmetry, symbolism, liberté, égalité, fraternity. Léon Foucault’s pendulum swung back and forth beside us where it has almost always been since 1851. Christ looked on from his mosaic-ed position on the eastern wall, down at La Convention Nationale sculpture, as if blessing French nationalism … Continue reading Paris when it sizzles at 38 deg C

From Cod Wars to pa’ies: our trip to Hull and back again

“I would rather be a man toiling, suffering—nay, failing and successless—here, than lead a dull prosperous life in the old worn grooves of what you call more aristocratic society down in the South, with their slow days of careless ease.”

says Mr Thornton in North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

BBC dramaHave you read or watched Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South (BBC version 2004)? Imagine the camera panning across the English countryside. Birds are tweeting, yellow roses adorn the hedgerows in full bloom, the sun shines, there are parties and pretty frocks? That’s the South. Now put a grey-blue filter over the lens and picture a hazy, sooty cityscape with chimneys and rooftops for miles, inclement weather, a crying child, a wide-eyed youngster in a flat cap and the constant din of industrial machinery. Voila – I give you, The North. Continue reading From Cod Wars to pa’ies: our trip to Hull and back again

Norway: Nyama, the King and the big boulder … and the VOH

“Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are men to rocks and mountains?”

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

10km return climb to Kjeragbolten Sitting on my bottom, edging my foot onto the boulder and trying hard not to look down at the 3200ft abyss below, I had one of those out of body experiences.

On the one hand, a more sensible Nyama looked on from a safe distance wondering almost out loud whether anyone had ever fallen to their death on this spot. She also seriously doubted whether in fact the Nyama on the rock really did have it in her to stand on the Kjeragbolten. Continue reading Norway: Nyama, the King and the big boulder … and the VOH

Umngqusho: the taste of South African winter

samp and beans
Traditional umngqusho – yummy and simple.

“Recipe for Murder:
1 stocky man who abuses his wife, 1 small tender wife, 1 medium-sized tough woman in love with the wife, 1 double-barrelled shotgun, 1 small Karoo town marinated in secrets, 3 bottles of Klipdrift brandy, 3 little ducks, 1 bottle of pomegranate juice, 1 handful of chilli peppers, 1 mild gardener, 1 fire poker, 1 red-hot New Yorker, 7 Seventh-day Adventists (prepared for The End of the World), 1 hard-boiled investigative journalist, 1 soft amateur detective, 2 cool policemen, 1 lamb, 1 handful of red herrings and suspects mixed together, Pinch of greed.

Throw all the ingredients into a big pot and simmer slowly, stirring with a wooden spoon for a few years. Add the ducks, chillies and brandy towards the end and turn up the heat.”

Recipes for Love and Murder: A Tannie Maria Mystery by Sally Andrew

While visiting my parents in South Africa I asked a local Xhosa lady in the village to give me a masterclass in making real South African umngqusho. It’s a South African staple among the Xhosa people – extending in its varieties to all the other Bantu tribes. It was said to be Nelson Mandela’s favourite dish. I grew up on my nanny’s umngqusho, also called ‘samp and beans’, and it’s a meal I often long for – so let’s just say it’s a recipe that warms not just the tummy, but the heart. Continue reading Umngqusho: the taste of South African winter