RED RED

Wilfrid Scawen Blunt began a verse like this:

Red, red gold, a kingdom’s ransom, child,
To weave thy yellow hair she bade them spin.
At early dawn the gossamer spiders toiled,
And wove the sunrise in.

As red plays an important part in the decorations of this festive season, I thought we could start with a ‘red, red gold’ sunrise as seen from our bedroom window – beautiful enough to make one wish to rise straight away and see what the day holds in store:

The drabness of the South African winter is brightened by the arrival of the aloe blossoms in various shades of pinks, through to orange and hues of red – they are certainly worth a ‘kingdom’s ransom’ at the time for their beauty and cheerfulness:

Proteas too lift one’s spirits:

Once the scarlet blooms of the Erythrina trees are over and the trees shrug on their green foliage, which later turns yellow and then brown before dropping, we are treated to the bright red of their seeds revealed when the black pods split open:

On a practical note, warning signs are red. Occasionally one has to ‘make do’ as here when the planks brought home were too long to fit into the boot of the car:

Lastly, on a more aesthetic note, see how red brightens up this stained glass window:

ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL TREE

This one grows on the pavement outside our garden, so we have been able to enjoy the beautiful purple-mauve blossoms of the Jacaranda – a colour that is very difficult to capture accurately on film.

Jacarandas were brought to South Africa from Argentina in about 1880 for ornamental purposes – particularly for public spaces, such as streets. Those planted along our street look their best when they are in full bloom at this time of the year and carpet the ground underneath them with their lovely blossoms.

Here is a better view of them – the ones on the left-hand side of the street are Brazilian Pepper trees.

The carpet of flowers look very pretty early in the morning, before vehicles have driven over and squished them.

Jacarandas have been planted as street trees in town too. The dark shapes you can see in these trees are seed pods that have already formed.

 

TAKING THE PATH OUT

One tires of simply walking around the block and getting barked at by the same dogs in the same places and stepping round the same sewerage leaks … every now and then it is good to walk to the end of the road and along the path decorated with (on this day) donkey droppings acting as a starter marker for a jaunt out of the suburb.

It doesn’t go far for it serves merely as a shortcut to the nominal industrial area and the road that bypasses the town. The area is not as barren or as uninteresting as it might appear at first glance. Tiny pelargoniums look up brightly:

Spiderwebs catch some of the 2mm of rain that fell during the night:

An abandoned hollowed out termite heap gives a glimpse of the layers inside – I am sorry about the litter, but felt disinclined to remove it sans gloves:

At the top of the low rise one gets a lovely view across town on this overcast day:

The return path wends it way through patches of long grass:

In several places termites have been hard at work repairing their heaps:

On our return, we meet a single cow with her calf:

TRAVELLING LOCAL

The COVID-19 pandemic has clipped our wings in ways we would never have imagined a year ago. Initially there was the anxiety of repatriating South Africans abroad who needed to come home as well as the hundreds of people trapped here who had to return to their homes and places of work abroad. Then we were stuck: at first confined to our homes; gradually being allowed out to exercise; being restricted within provincial borders; and now we can – still with caution – enjoy what South Africa has to offer.

With so many overseas trips cancelled – and still not possible – ‘travelling local’ has taken on a new lease of life. There is a lot of ground to cover in this beautiful country! Friends and neighbours are taking advantage of setting off to explore hitherto unvisited areas or hiving off to the familiar delights of iconic places such as the Kruger National Park.

While confined to home during the initial lockdown phase, I got to know my garden very well indeed – as well as the creatures that share it with us. Nonetheless, I would gaze through our front gate with a degree of longing, yet only ventured as far as our local supermarket on my weekly grocery shopping expeditions.

Expeditions they have been too: rising in the pitch dark to enter the shop when it opened at half past six in order to avoid the lengthy queues that gathered outside after sunrise. I still go early even though the queues have somehow dissipated, and now can enjoy the fresh air and the birdsong at the start of the day. I am home by seven in the morning and the rest of the day stretches ahead, with the worst task already behind me.

‘Freedom’ first came in the form of being allowed to exercise close to home. We have got to know our local streets very well. How’s that for ‘travelling local’?

I clearly recall our first day visit to the Addo Elephant National Park. What a rigmarole it was to get in as we had to book the visit beforehand and show proof of our residence in the Eastern Cape. Then, as now, one had to fill in various forms and have one’s temperature taken – and of course wear a mask. Even though the shop, restaurant and the picnic area were closed, this didn’t detract from the sheer joy of leaving the confines of our town and being in the wild once more.

I have visited the area a few times since then, but the Mountain Zebra National Park was ‘calling’ too – especially once overnight accommodation was allowed. For the first time ever, we eschewed camping to stay in a chalet.

Another favourite place that has simply had to be savoured once more is the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park. Spending four days there was restorative for my soul.

We have not yet left our home province, but the rest of South Africa is beckoning …