Fabulous Friends, Food And Frivolous Fun
Was exactly how my weekend started. We’re born into families, some are single parent ones, adopted ones or traditional ones. We can't choose them, friends are the people we pick along the way. People who intrigue and fascinate us, who we have something in common with or it’s the child you sit next to in the classroom, later it's the Mum you meet at your childs' nursery school or at the dentist’s. If you’re lucky, you’ll remain friends forever. Friends inspire us, motivate us, teach us, guide us and love us undeservedly.
On Friday we celebrated Sarine’s 88th birthday. She lives in her beautiful large, thatched home, surrounded by her photographs in old frames. Her cups are all vintage. English china ones covered in flowers, painted yellow, pink and mauve. On the half-moon ball and claw table in the entrance hall there’ll always be fresh cut-flowers and a hat or two on the hat stand. The unmistakable creek of hardwood floors and the smell of floor polish (Sunbeam) never changes. Sanderson linen, velvets, starched table napkins and faded dark green wall to wall carpets have all stood the test of time. Her ancient Venetian blinds are always tilted just so, making the house cool and a shade darker. It’s peaceful.
Her name says it all. She’s serene in every sense of the word. Calm, patient and quiet. Her skin is soft and gossamer, the veins running blue and true. Always well groomed, her thick hair glossy, the brush stroked through at least a 100 times. On Friday she was dressed in her favourite red shoes, red cardigan and her lips were Dior red. Ask her how she is. Always it is; “I’m fine, I have nothing to complain about!” I am her "girlie".
34 years ago I met my new neighbours, one on the left and the other on the right. Martha and I were pregnant, Sarine had just recovered from a most horrific bout of chemotherapy and burning radiation therapy after a mastectomy. Her children were all but grown up and her “laat lammetjie” (youngest) was just finishing high school.
My children loved the Koch’s. They were the "hands-on grandparents” who loved them, cleaned them, fed them and played with them. Taught them to mow the lawn, ride on the bumper of a Volksie (Beetle). Bubbles (who was an ex-Springbok rugby player) taught them his beloved game. With his bandy legs he taught my children to ride their bicycles, he allowed them to shoot air guns, slingshots and told them stories about Jock of the Bushveld and fishing on the Plaat. In their garden my children were free to run, hide and seek, roll around in the lawn clippings. They made tunnels through the hedge to visit the neighbours or to pinch loquats, apricots and to scoop up pecan nuts. When they got cuts or scrapes it was to Tannie (aunty) Bubbles’ house they ran for a kiss and plaster. There they had white bread sandwiches with Marmite and tea.
Later Esmè with her three boys arrived, our corner was complete, and it stayed that way for more than a decade. Circumstances changed, but we remained friends and when we have something to celebrate we’ll do it together. They’ve been my anchor when times have been really hard. When I’ve wept they’ve mopped up my tears and made me laugh. They remember my children’s birthdays, highlights and enthusiastically catch up with latest news. These women have been my Martha’s. They’re loyal, steadfast and I don’t deserve them. They’re the salt of my earth, making my world a much richer place. These women were there when I came home with an afro like Jimi Hendriks, when my children all had head lice, when I had to push-start the car, when the Jack Russell bit someone and when Joe drove the brand new car into the wall. For the second time. They hugged me when Timmy went off to boarding school and I cried and they were there again and again years later.
And so it was once again a delight to get together, to catch up, to laugh and reminisce, rehashing ancient stories and making new memories. We three younger ones are blessed to have Sarine in our lives, she is a great example of growing older gracefully, of accepting circumstances beyond her control. She lives a simple yet rich life surrounded by her children who love her and her grandchildren who simply adore her. Occasionally I see her driving her car to the village to do her shopping, the car guard has fallen for her charms too and will protect her Honda with his life. With a spring in her step she challenges each day with a positive spirit, learning new things and keeping up with our demanding new technical world. We four were dubbed the “vrot kol” (rotten patch) by a man of the cloth (a story for another day), I prefer to think of us as the Fabulous Four.
A new Tapas restaurant opened a year or so ago, on a hill overlooking the Worcester Valley in Nuy. So it was that we went to Nuy On The Hill on Friday for lunch. Very nicely decorated. A large space with a huge fire in winter. An enclosed veranda overlooking our beautiful mountains, vineyards and Worcester in the distance. We decided to sit there. It was a typical spring day, a 4 seasons in a day kind of day. I wish I’d had my camera there to capture the sun on the mountains and then the clouds rolling in and eventually the storm clouds covering them and then the rain cooled things down. We all decided on burgers, mine a Banting burger, Martha a huge regular burger and Sarine and Esmè treated themselves to a burger with lashings of curry sauce. Our boards looked fabulous and the homemade patties were delicious. Here was comfort food that looked good and tasted delicious. Pizza’s it seems is what other guests rave about, I’m sure they’ll be divine too and there’s a Banting option too. It’s encouraging to see that eateries are accommodating patrons who have alternate food preferences. Well done Nuy On The Hill.
I never, ever go out without lipstick. At times I wish I didn’t set such high expectations, especially as I get older and less inclined to get all dressed up, preferring to go au natural. For one, my mother would be really distraught. Unfortunately all this nonsense started as a teenager. I thought it was really hot to wear make-up. Later I had no option as I had to look the part in the fashion industry, and I thought it was cool. My naked reflection in the mirror will always be a motivation to get the creams on, unless I’m in the bush (without a mirror), with a hat on my head. Then I feel liberated and carefree.
Saturday was not a day to open my dressing table drawer and see it empty. But it was. I searched high and low, in my weekend bag and handbag. I even upended all the drawers and shelves in the bathroom. Hot flushes flashed and shot through the top of my head. Murphy’s Law. It was my class-reunion. A class with some of the most beautiful women I’ve ever known in it. Sexy, smart, thin, gorgeous and ever young they are. They’re the Class of ’74. Not the occasion for au natural I’m afraid.
I had forgotten to pack my pink make-up bag. Back into the drawer I went. Do remember this is our holiday cottage. It’s. Minimalistic. The drawers are virtually empty. That’s how I like them. On Saturday I could’ve kicked myself. Fortunately the gods were on my side. There was an old compact with a few pieces of crumbly blusher and another two tone compact with a smidge of eyeshadow which I applied using a small wad of cotton wool. A lot of dabbing and toning with my index finger was done. I had to scrounge around the guest bedroom and there stuck in the back of a drawer I found a dried up mascara. Under the tap the applicator went and with much rubbing backward and forwards I managed a few brown globby lashes. Not my finest hour.
Avontuur. Manicured lawns, white picket fences, stables and race horses was my destination. A vineyard, cellar and restaurant I’ve not visited before. The reason? You might wonder? Because of my most embarrassing moment and a 30th birthday party 3 decades ago. My then husband was there, all blue eyes and looking like Mel Gibson. He, the shameless flirt, was having it off with Miss Legs (they owned Avontuur then) at the swimming pool. So, while I was slaving away in the kitchen plating beautiful seafood he was trying his hand on some racy legs. I had to get my own back and found the opportunity while they were gazing at each other sipping champagne. I gathered my skirts and apron and flew down the manicured contoured lawns at top speed, intent on giving him the nudge that would send him flying into the pool to cool down. I had one step to go. My hand out-stretched, ready. And then he side-stepped closer to ML. While they cooed and whispered sweet nothings I went flying into the cold water. To my rescue came the hostess with a towel and dry clothes, she, the only person to see the spectacle. He oblivious. With my tail between my dripping legs I had to get back to the kitchen to serve dessert. Always ended up being the village idiot.
But, I was here for a class reunion with the class of ’74. The infamous class, who have managed to stay friends. There were 14 of us who had more to say than a 100 people. It was non-stop laughter and chitter chatter. Like a swarm of weavers we chirruped all afternoon. They’re all still beautiful, clever, creative and filled with joie de vivre. I couldn’t have asked for better classmates. We missed you Ron, Cia, Tracy, Wendy, Ingrid and all the other girls who couldn’t make it. Janine you’re a star to have made the effort to be here. You’re all an inspiration. You’ve achieved so much and have remained true to yourselves. I look forward to seeing you all again next year.
The reunion was what we went to Avontuur for. The meal played second fiddle and the waiter had a hard time getting us to place our orders. Many chose the fish and chips, a few had quiche and salad and one or two of us had the roulade with salsa and vegetables. All the meals were beautifully presented and tasted really good. Flavours were subtle and my roulade was light and the portion just right. At the time I did think the roulade was a little dry, but, it didn’t spoil my meal at all. This is a popular lunch venue as all the tables had been reserved and patrons were enjoying their meals as the sun brightened and warmed up during the afternoon. Someone recommended the Bread and Butter Pudding, I fell for it of course. It was dreamy, creamy, rich and just perfect. Took me back to my boarding school days. The perfect touch on a perfect day.
The year is speeding up, weekend diaries are filling up fast, and soon we’ll be planning other birthday celebrations and reunions. I’m happy I was able to join these, rekindle friendships and catch up in person. Nothing beats a good face to face confab.