BLACKOUTS

South Africa is beset with rolling blackouts, thanks to ESKOM’s inability to provide a steady supply of electricity to serve the whole country’s needs at the same time. This is not the forum in which to rant and rave or to dwell on the whys and wherefores of the situation. Suffice it to say that having no electricity at odd times of the day is something we have had to become used to and make the best of.

On the lighter side, the lack of power has naturally made ESKOM the butt of many jokes. A lovely video clip has done the rounds depicting everything from hair dryers to photocopy machines running on gas – a sense of humour is essential here. Circulated via e-mail too is the cover of a recipe book purporting to be from ESKOM. Tongue-in-cheek, it depicts in some versions a fire, braai grid, meat and tongs – no electricity required!

Braaing runs in the blood of many South Africans. A good place to witness this is in the Kruger National Park, where every campsite and chalet has braai facilities. The major picnic areas have gas braais for hire – they are well used too for cooking anything from early morning breakfasts to lunches in the middle of the afternoon. An aroma I always associate with these places is the sizzling of boerewors, sosaties and steaks.

There is a memorably distinctive sweet smell emanating from the local hardwoods used for real braai fires in the rest camps – still the preferred method for cooking meat (and a surprising array of other dishes) outdoors.

As darkness descends across the veld and the first of a myriad of stars begin to twinkle overhead, pinpricks of light appear all over the camping area. Flames flicker at first, then long fiery tongues take hold of the wood. Conversations brighten along with the flames. At last the coals are ready … the feasting begins.

And at home? Braais continue to be popular. Kitchen makeovers have increasingly included gas hobs at least, and even non-campers have taken to owning a portable gas cooker of one kind or another. Candles are evident in every home. At times camping and outdoor shops have run out of supplies of lamps – the demand for them is so great. Torches are kept handy.

This morning our ‘load-shedding’ was between 9 and 11:30, which was not too bad for breakfast was over by then. As wielding an iron, washing machine, vacuum cleaner or computer was temporarily out of the question, I used the opportunity to soak up the mild sunshine in the garden while enjoying watching birds with a clear conscience.
The garden is lit up by a swathe of yellow canary creepers, bright orange Cape honeysuckles, orangey-red aloes, pink hibiscus, and pale blue Plumbago blossoms.

What a delight. Of course this is very different when ESKOM switches off our power at night!

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