Archive for the 'Sedgefield Life' Category

Catching A Burglar

At 4am, on a Friday night a few weeks ago, a noise woke Gavin and I. Gavin tiptoed to the bathroom window to peer out, and I sat bolt upright in bed. Suddenly, there was a movement at the bedroom blinds and a hand pushed its way through the open window. I screeched, Gavin looked out in time to see two men rushing out the front gate.

They’d climbed the stairs and opened the upstairs deck gate, attracted by what appeared to be an open, unguarded window. Our upstairs burglar bars are see-through so as not to spoil the view, they’re also virtually invisible, especially at night.

We didn’t hear any sound the next night, but on Sunday morning we could see footprints in the mud and tracks up the stairs. These guys were just not giving up, and we were pretty sure that they’d be back to try again.

Sure enough, the very next Friday, at about 3.30am, we heard the gate again. This time we made no sound. Gavin snuck downstairs and I pressed the panic button (twice, just to be sure!).

The armed response guy was here in less than 2 minutes, the burglar heard him but it was too late for escape. By the time he’d run down the stairs and tried to vault over the wall, the security guy was on the thief and had him in handcuffs.    The burglar had come alone this time, we later found out that his crony was breaking into a house 100 metres down the road.

The cops came and took our captive away to the Knysna police station where he spent the week-end in jail. He was charged with trespassing (!), paid an admission of guilt fine, and was out on Monday afternoon. We’ve had two peaceful week-ends since then so I am hoping he has figured that robbing our house is just too much hassle.

Our crime story made the local paper, check out the link.

Hibiscus Tea

When I was a city dweller fantasising about coastal living my dream sea-side house had white walls, bougainvilleas and hibiscus plants. Ten years on and, to quote the immortal Meatloaf, two out of three ain’t bad. My walls might be brown wood but I have an enourmous bougainvillea and hibiscuses in every colour.

The original owners were obviously crazy about hibiscuses. There are 17 huge bushes, decades old, which flower so riotously it’s vulgar.  When I googled ‘hibiscus’ yesterday the first prompt was ‘hibiscus tea’ – the preferred drink of the ancient Pharos.

Not just a tipple for Nefertiti, hibiscus tea naturally lowers blood pressure. A study conducted at Tufts University in 2008 demonstrated that consuming 3 cups of Hibiscus sabdariffa L. tea each day reduced systolic blood pressure by 7-14mm Hg in people with mild hypertension.

The two hibiscus species commonly used medicinally are H. rosa sinensis and H. sabdariffa. I’m not sure what species I have in the garden, but it seems none are poisonous, so I picked a variety and made the tea. It’s very fragrant, almost like incense or bubblegum, and probably an easily acquired taste. My mix of flowers resulted in a dark purple brew which stains – perfect to write that missive in hieroglyphics.

We’re Open!

Yip, this is shameless self promotion after weeks months of no posting. The season has started, holiday makers are here in abundance, and our hours are from 10 in the morning until 7 in the evening.

We open the gates, open the garage, and people stop by – on foot, on bikes, in cars, you get the picture. It’s fun having a shop again, it’s been ten years since we closed our book store in Joburg, and I’d forgotten how much of a blast retail can be. Meeting people, the thrill of cold cash. . . and we can sit on the deck in the sun and have a glass of wine while waiting for customers.

Gross Fowl Tale

One of the garden Guinea Fowl got its foot tangled up in some fishing line. It hopped on one leg during winter and only survived because Gavin fed the creature twice a day. Gavin made a few attempts at a rescue capture but the wild flapping and high pitched screeching put paid to that idea – the bird was also a bit flustered.

Last week, suddenly, there was no more limping and the line was gone. So, too, was one of three toes which pitched up on the paving in the back garden.

Empty Shops & Bank Repos

The night I sleep best is the second one of any given month. The mortgage and utilities are paid and I have 28 days to get the next payments together. Things are bad in our little coastal paradise – half the shops in town are empty, the local school has shrunk and fee non-payments are at an all-time high, many of my friends’ husbands are working all over Africa to send money home.

The sign above says it all. Family Home. Not any more.


Summer evenings on the deck mean white wine for us and cheese for the Drongos. They are so persistent, and so obsessed with dairy, that we just call them cheesebirds. This year a Butcher bird has joined the fray.
We keep a block of cheese in the bar fridge upstairs and break off small pieces for the Drongos, which they will eat straight out of your hand. The Butcher bird doesn’t quite get cheese etiquette. . . or maybe he’s just a lot smarter than the Drongos.

Eyes small bit of cheese . . .

Eats small bit of cheese. . .

Small bit of cheese next to big block of cheese. . .

Why eat small bit of cheese. . .

When you can eat big block of cheese?


We spent the week-end on the beach, not in swim suits, but soaking up the sun in jeans and t-shirts. After a closeted winter breathing in wood smoke, the sea air and gull calls smelt and sounded like freedom.
I don’t enjoy the winter months like I used to, my bones feel creaky and my energy levels deplete with the effort of making a cup of cocoa. Another cold front is blowing in today, I can see it building across the sea on the horizon. But, the flowers are out, the dawn is earlier, and I’m stocking up with white wine instead of red.

Buddha Garagista

Not only are we slowly being squeezed out of the house by burgeoning stock, the car has been ousted from the garage.

Our most recent shipment arrived two weeks ago and is finally unpacked. The wooden crates are lying around the back garden, waiting to be broken up and packed away neatly. If we just wait a year or two the Golden Shower will gradually cover this one, saving us a bit of effort.

Opting Out, Hippies, and Schooling

Being a free spirit can conflict with being a parent. I’m not a mother who thinks kids can do what they want, and I abhor bratty, self-entitled children – mine are well mannered and respectful. But, on Sundays, with the week looming, it’s school that gets me down.
The mundaneness, the monotony – parenting flings me right back into that which I worked so hard to escape! The Sedgefield school is a good one, the teachers tend toward the Fundamentalist Christian and both my kids went through an early evangelical stage. Jake’s third grade teacher was, however, very calm and understanding when he told her he was moving on and now believed in Darwin.
I sometimes (very, very briefly) think of home schooling, and in dark sport-on-Saturday moments sympathise with survivalists.
When Gavin and I were younger we lived in the hippest suburb of Joburg, Yeoville. This was just before democracy and it was a wild and free area where all those on society’s fringes could find acceptance. Mixed race couples (when that was illegal), gays and lesbians (ditto), drug addicts, political radicals – all found a home in Yeoville. It was a great place to spend your early 20s if you were a neo-hipppie.
We were friendly with a couple then, Ben and Issy, he was a gem dealer and her occupation was vague. They had a kid, Luke, who was about 13 at that time. He had never been to school, never been registered with Home Affairs, had no birth certificate or ID number – completely off the grid.
They were pretty cool, loving parents and Luke knew a lot about a lot. I wonder what’s happened to him, now a man in his late 20s.
Much as I hate the adapting to the endless routine I guess it’s not fair to make those decisions on your children’s behalf. If Jake and Thomas want to opt out later, they should be able to do it with written affirmation that they have done the three R’s. You have to experience the system before you can reject it. Or not, as the case may be.

Home Gallery and Scary Bathrooms

The upstairs gallery is so full we've had to squash stuff into the corners under the eaves - and Gavin is off to Vietnam on Monday to get more.

The upstairs gallery has been such a hit that it has expanded – into the rest of the house.

The growth has been a huge relief financially, but living and running a shop in the same space is probably better suited to a family much neater than ours.

I had an email from a Johannesburg couple in January saying they were coming down on holiday in March and would love to see what we had for sale. I gave them our address and phone number and promptly forgot about it.

Most people phone to say they are coming which gives me a chance to shove dirty dishes into a cupboard and make the beds. The Joburg pair had a GPS and the first I heard from them was their voices wafting up from the garden.

They were lovely, raved about the house and gallery, and bought enough to pay our mortgage for two months. My pleasure was marred by sheer terror that they might need the bathroom. It would have been Hobson’s choice. The downstairs bathroom which has not changed one iota since I did this post, or the upstairs bathroom where the boys had performed their morning ablutions (a lot more horrible than you can imagine).

This used to be our lounge - still is in the evenings.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 23 other followers

Blog Stats

  • 118,072 hits