Hanging plant holders

Greetings from a very wet and windy Cape Town. I just had to nip out to the shop up the road for bread and milk, and to the sewing shop round the corner for a new pair of sewing scissors (cutting some thick fabric this morning with my old ones was too much to handle, on top of everything else happening here right now). I could have held up a bank, dressed as I was in Philip’s huge old black hooded raincoat and my black face mask.* You could only see my eyes. Maybe that’s what wearing a full burqa feels like.

We are still at Level 4 of lockdown, moving to Level 3 on 1 June. I don’t know what it’s like for you, wherever you are in the world, but here is pretty damn crazy. This post was supposed to be about the plant hangers I’ve been making (I’ll get to it, I promise) but the things happening here are just so insane that I can’t contain myself any longer. The ban on the sale of alcohol will only be lifted next week – countless people have died from drinking vrot homemade pineapple beer (seems it’s not as easy to make as one would have thought) or meths, and the ban on tobacco products is not going to be lifted for months. We are allowed to buy certain items of clothing in shops but not t-shirts with short sleeves or open-toe shoes (not sure how they define Crocs). We can attend religious gatherings of up to 50 people, but we are not allowed to enter a restaurant to pick up a take-away order (even one person at a time). Apparently the minister of social something-or-other wants to ban the provision of cooked food to the homeless and the poor, and this bill is sitting on her desk right now. Countless people have been killed as a result of overzealous police action relating to lockdown restrictions. (Yes, you read that right. Killed). It is outrageous. Sniffer dogs are now employed at many postal and courier depots to make sure that no-one is sending any prohibited items around the country. A curfew was imposed at the beginning of May – you had to be home by 20h00. Exercise time was 6h00 to 9h00 daily. You could go to the pharmacy to pick up your meds but you couldn’t buy hair colour from the shelf right next to the queue you were standing in because it was deemed “non essential”. Few things made sense.

It all started so well, and I get that authorities and governments round the world had to wing it. We were all behind The Prez at first, but he has misread the growing mood of resentment and desperation in recent weeks, and seems to have taken some bad advice. Little or no scientific basis for lockdown regulations has been provided, and yet we are expected to abide by them regardless. People want to go back to work (all of us, formal and informal traders, office workers, domestic staff, black and white, low- and middle-class), naturally taking proper safety precautions, but that’s not allowed. More people will die from the effects of this lockdown than from the virus itself. I read a lot and I know this applies to many other countries, not just South Africa. And I know I’m speaking as a middle-class white person (how could I not be, that’s what I am?) but am very aware of the hardships faced by homeless and poor people because of my work with an NGO that provides food for those who can’t afford it. Thank god for all the church groups, NGOs, community groups and generous individuals who have been providing for those less fortunate – they have been doing the work that the state is supposed to.

Now, where was I before I started ranting? – oh yes, plant holders. I wanted to come up with a unique product for the Christmas markets (optimistically hoping they will actually happen in 2020!) that combined my enjoyment of sewing with my love of plants. And so we have these:

I fiddled around with the basic design for ages before I was happy, and the new ones (which aren’t pictured here) have wooden beads instead of knots at each top corner. They look really cute. I’ve used up all my shweshwe fabric, hopefully I’ll be able to buy more when all the shops are allowed to open…. 

*It is obligatory to wear a mask now when you go out, and also preferably even when you’re driving alone in your car. Yup, true.

autumn garden

Inspired by Jane and Cathy with their spring gardens, I’ve just taken some pics of what’s happening in my AUTUMN garden right now. It’s my favourite season, even more than spring, and Cape Town’s southern suburbs had beautiful rain all through the night. Here are some of the colourful bits:

Lycianthes rantonnetii, or blue potato.

blue potato sun

Philadelphus coronarius, or mock orange, next to the front gate, in full bloom. The scent is unbelievable. In about two weeks time, the blossoms will fall off and it will look like a mini-snowfall on the ground underneath.

mock orange sun

Perched next to the front door, my beloved red crassula. Eighteen months old and looking like an underwater creature today :)

crassula sun

Next to the driveway, this stunning yellow hibiscus was here when I moved in.

hibiscus sun

The last pic from the front garden, two baby ice-cream bushes (breynia disticha) next to the letterbox, recently freed from the grip of some creeping weedy things and doing very well.

ice cream sun

Moving to the back garden now. The overcast day doesn’t do justice to this pic of the Duranta erecta (golden dewdrops). The flowers really are a glorious purple.

duranta sun

On the patio, this plectranthus was a tiny cutting two weeks ago. It grew so big and so fast it seems to think it’s a banana tree.

plectranthus sun

Some nasturtiums in pots, which those hungry black and yellow caterpillars just love to gobble up. I yell a bit when they’ve decimated a whole plant, but I do get rewarded by butterflies.

nasturtiums sun

The last three surviving petunias. I had to move the hanging basket because they weren’t getting enough sun. There’s also a convolvulus in there but it hasn’t flowered yet.

petunia sun

Tradescantia going beserk, hanging on the trellis. Who said you can’t grow things in old peanut butter jars…?

tradescantia

And then this – Stapelia clavicorona (yes, most unfortunate name) or milkweed toad plant. It lives in the pot it came in on a stand next to the kitchen window, and just seemed like a bunch of greeny-purple sticky-up shoots until yesterday morning, when it produced this. I was ambling around in my dressing gown throwing seed for the birds when I spotted the bloom. I nearly fainted with excitement, and then shrieked so loudly that my neighbour whatsapped me to make sure I was alright.

toad 2

A close-up. It’s magnificence, combined with the wondrous surprise of it even being there at all, is matched only by its vile stench. Google tells me it is also known as a carrion flower. All I can say is that carrion is getting a bad rap because the smell couldn’t possibly come close to this foul odour.

You can see there are another two buds just popping their heads out on the right.

milkweed toad 1

Every day I am grateful for the garden and the beautiful part of the world I live in. I’m really missing seeing friends, going out for sushi, having my hair trimmed (and the grey roots dealt with!), not to mention earning a living – aaarrrgggghhhh – but I acknowledge how very fortunate I am. Sending lockdown love to you all xxx

Lockdown, day #whatever

Well, we’re in a right bloody mess, aren’t we? South Africa’s lockdown has been extended to the end of April. We have 1,800 confirmed cases and 18 deaths, so the guys in charge figure this is working. I know it’s easy to be critical from a distance, so I’ll just say that I’m sure the government thinks its doing the right thing “for the people” and leave it there. I will abide by the regulations, although I think some of them are excessive and pointless.

We can’t buy alcohol, so I’m hoarding two bottles of white wine under the bed and some gin behind the bookcase. (I don’t know why I’m hiding it, actually, since I live alone. The cat’s unlikely to be interested in a martini.) We can’t buy cigarettes and I only have four packs left, so I’ll have to start smoking something I can find in the garden. I’ll be going shopping in the morning (I have to choose the supermarket closest to my house), but I can’t buy wool to crochet a blanket or a new pipe for the vacuum cleaner because those aren’t deemed “essential items”. FFS.

Things I have been doing during lockdown, apart from fighting lethargy:

Signed up for an online language course – I’d really like to be able to speak German, also probiere ich es aus. Aber es ist schwierig! My accent must be atrocious but my friend Lara has a husband who is fluent in German, she said she’d lend him to me for a bit after lockdown. That will help.

Started reading the first of three volumes about the Third Reich, by Richard J. Evans. There are huge gaps in my knowledge of history, and my ex-husband recommended Evans as one of the best historians of this particular period in Europe. I’m up to the late 1920s, when the crash of the stock market in New York changed the world’s economy forever, and the implications for Germany and the Nazis.

Been making a few masks, but mainly just for people who ask for them specially. I use three layers of 180-count cotton fabric, as recommended by the WHO. I made the first one with pleats but it annoyed me so now I make them like this (easier and more comfortable):

mask 1

Painted a bookcase. Try to do my Pilates routine every day, to the accompaniment of a blues soundtrack from Spotify so that I forget to count.

Continued knitting a jersey for a friend’s 3-year old grandson in Bristol, who will probably never get it now. I haven’t found it very absorbing, which is a pity – I used to love knitting. I knit while watching Narcos, six fabulous seasons of the origins of the drug trade in South America and its global impact. I’ve almost come to the end, but have picked up a few useful Spanish expressions. Maybe I should have signed up to learn Spanish instead of German – aunque como van las cosas, no puedo visitar México.

Spent a lot of time on social media trying to help an NGO, The Service Dining Rooms, raise money and awareness for the plight of the homeless community in Cape Town. People have been very generous, which is extremely heartening.

Pottering in the garden and with my container plants. Some of the plants on the patio have mealy bug or woolly aphid or whatever that horrible white fuzzy thing is called, so I’ve made up my own spray with garlic and cayenne pepper. Hope it works. I also feed the plants regularly with stuff made from fish droppings or something similarly stinky. What can I say – the plants are thriving, but it definitely gets a bit smelly out there sometimes!

Over and out for now. Good luck with your lockdown. Maybe we’ll all come out of this with a different and better perspective on life, and a greater sense of gratitude for what we have.

 

 

Cape Town April 2020

We’re on Day #12 of lockdown in South Africa, and it’s pretty horrible. The restrictions here include a ban on the sale of alcohol and cigarettes, which I can’t see helps anyone very much. It just means more people are in foul moods (speaking of behalf of a friend…)

But here’s some traditional Cape Town music, which is fabulous, and hopefully will make you smile. All credits for this great piece are at the end of the clip.

Cape Town April 2020

closed for business

It’s depressingly quiet out there. Very little traffic on the main roads and highways, a restaurant with only three tables in it last night, empty school grounds, and all events cancelled. Including the craft markets, which are my main source of income. Fun times.

I have no time for people who panic and, even if I was selfish enough to want to stockpile toilet paper and tins of sweetcorn, I wouldn’t have room for it all – my fabric and sewing stuff will always have priority. The regulations in South Africa about what to do and not do are very clear, and are in line with international best practice. If everyone accepts them for the time being, that’s the best we can hope for right now. I also have no time for conspiracy mongers or prophets of doom.

Talking about doom….I spotted these in the gift section of my local nursery last week. Rather ironic and incongruous items to have displayed on the shelves, I thought. And no, they didn’t come home with me.

pangolins

Take care, everyone. And if you feel like watching President Cyril Ramaphosa demonstrate the elbow greeting, have a squizz here or here.

ScrapHappy March 2020

I think I’m just in time for this month’s ScrapHappy , prompted as usual by Kate down under. It’s only 10h42 here in South Africa, so perhaps for some of you it’s not even Sunday yet.

door snake

A very very quick make! A draught excluder, or door snake if you prefer, about 75cm long and about 34 cm in diameter, made from nine pieces of offcuts from cushions. It’s filled with cat litter because (a) it makes it nice and heavy, and (b) I didn’t have anything else at hand. It’s turned out a little too short for the width of my front door plus the side panel, but no draught gets under the panel bit so I’m not bothered. A finished make is a finished make is a finished make, right?! :)

Lots of other people make gorgeous things from scraps. Please see Kate’s link above, for an update on her amazing scrap hexie quilt, and for links to other creative people.

 

Mend it Monday (Thursday) 2

A pair of lovely leather Green Cross sandals, bought by Karen about 6 years ago and then rapidly handed over to me because they didn’t make her feet happy: they’ve made mine happy all this time, and the soles and straps are still in perfect condition. But the surface of the upper sole, not being leather, has worn away.

These are perfect sandals to wear when one is going for a pedicure, as an alternative to flipflops (which I detest), and I knew I would be sad to see them go.

sandal 2

Determined to figure something out, I traced around the sandal onto a piece of black fabric, cut out the shape, cut a straight line to the in-between-toe bit so the piece lay flat, and stuck it all in place with a lot of glue. Here you can see (a) where the glue is still drying at the front, and (b) some fabric fraying on the edges.

sandal 3

I trimmed the frayed bits as best I could, but with hindsight I realise a non-fraying fabric like felt would have been better. Still, here they are on my fat little feet, and I’m not ashamed to wear them to the beauty parlour any more :)

sandal 1