Archive for November, 2006

Today I had training meetings at work. I slipped out for a bathroom break and on the way checked my mail. My parcel from my knitter’s coffee swap pal arrived. Thank you Diane, it’s wonderful! I knew what it was as soon as I picked up the box. The coffee smelt divine.

Having very low impulse control, said package was opened in the mail room and then stashed in a friends office while I returned to my meeting and tried to tell Gorgeous Man about all of the goodies I’d received, in a hushed whisper that kept getting louder as the excitement overwhelmed me.

Here’s what my very generous pal sent:Lots and lots of sock yarn! Some oreos, some coffee, some stitch markers and some very cute Christmas decorations.

At lunchtime, I called in to see Simone who is also a member of the knitter’s coffee swap. We broke open the oreos and the coffee and before you could blink had her coffee maker going. The coffee is very, very good. I hope Diane likes her package as much as I like mine.

We have also started knitting socks, with local yarn – started last night. I managed to get her started right, but every time I go to join the first round on my own pair I screw up. I must have frogged the cast on at least 3 times… I think I have to find a small room and focus…

Gratuitious cat shots. This is Fat Boy exploiting the pile of clean laundry waiting to be folded.

This was the face I got when I pulled out the camera, but then he decided to ignore me and go back to sleep. He was one very unhappy cat when he was ejected from his little nest.

Singing went well last night, the hall was packed and they were hoping to raise about 40 000 Rand for charity.

The only downside was that yesterday was one of the hottest days we’ve had this spring and on the stage under the lights it was even hotter. One of the older ladies standing behind me passed out from the heat and was too far from the stage door to move. Fortunately one of the women standing next to her has medical training, so there wasn’t a complete panic. In fact I’m not sure the audience even noticed as there was so much else happening on the stage at the time.

Thank you once again Diane, I’m looking forward to playing with the yarn you sent.

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I survived the frantic activity of the weekend and the performances went well.

The graduation ceremony was interesting. A mix of very formal European traditions and some stuff that you could call uniquely African. One tradition I hadn’t seen before was ‘capping’. This is where the graduand kneels down and gets banged on the head with a floppy cap before having their colours placed over their head and being handed their degree.

Mixed with this were several women in traditional African dress and also some of the younger women in beautiful clothers that fuse African and western clothing traditions. One thing I particularly liked though was that the women would ululate when their child or spouse crossed the stage. I really want to learn how to do this, but I think my neighbours would complain if I start practicing and I don’t even know where to begin.

I did also manage to get some knitting in. I started this top down cardigan using the yarn I was sent last week (see previous post). I’m now at the stage where I need two stitch markers and so have to finish another item before I can proceed with this. I took some knitting to the rehearsal for the local Music Society performance and managed to get a few rows done while I waited. We had a longer wait at the Dutch Reform Church, but I didn’t take the knitting out there, I didn’t want to be disrespectful and I don’t know how they feel about knitting in church, even if it is for charity.

The performance at the church was part of their Christmas play. As far as I can tell – it was all in Afrikaans – we were the angel choir. We sang from the choir loft with accompanied by a huge pipe organ. I also discovered that Afrikaans has many Christmas carols that I’ve never heard the melodies of. It was an interesting experience (except for all of the talking which I didn’t understand and couldn’t guess because I couldn’t see the stage from where I was sitting).

Rehearsal tonight, and then big fund-raising performance on Wednesday. We are singing to raise funds for a day-care/drop in centre for under-privileged children in one of the local informal settlements.

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This weekend is graduation weekend and life is kind of frantic. Here’s the schedule:

Thursday night: alumni dinner and awards

Friday: 9.45 Pick up gown, 10am rehearsal for duet, 6.15pm rehearsal with small group.

Saturday: 10am rehearsal with larger choir, 2pm perform solo, duet, small group and larger choir in concert.

Sunday: morning Graduation ceremony, 4pm rehearsal for performance for local music guild with mass choir, 5pm performance. 7pm performance at local Dutch Reform Church – one of the churches in the mass choir. That will be interesting as I’ve never been to a Dutch Reform Church before – not speaking the language and all.

I did however, manage to cast on some of the yarn from Shelly in the car this morning, I can’t stand wasting time commuting, especially since we have such a long commute of 10 – 15 minutes *vbg*. But looking at it I think I need to frog it and cast on a smaller size since yarn is limited and I can’t buy an extra ball of Lorna’s Laces here.

Monday night I’ve promised myself that I will tidy up the sewing room, which Gorgeous Man has termed a disaster area and I have to admit, is turning into a junk room. Then the sewing can begin.

Since the MIL has decided that she is going to join us for Christmas I also need to make curtains for the ‘guestroom’ (which will become the nursery one day), before they arrive too.

Pictures of knitting progress Monday, I’m planning on taking that and a book to the rehearsal for the mass choir on Sunday as there’s usually a period of waiting around.

Now for the really exciting news. I’ve heard the pre-production recordings that we did a few weeks ago for the music department cd. The small group sounds amazing – especially considering we sang together for the first time 3 days before recording – we did all know the song though.

The duet is great, much better than I thought it would be, since I didn’t/don’t like the song. The girl I sang with has the same timbre as me in her voice so we blended really well.

The song by myself – the music director/producer is very pleased with it, I’ll just say it’s amazing what a studio can do. 🙂 I can hear places where it could be better, but I think that’s stuff only I would hear because I know my voice.

He told me that my voice records really well. Me, being my smart alec self said ‘Well you know what that means, we’ll need to record some more.’

His response? Wait for it… ‘We’re going to do a whole album’ !?! We’ll see if that eventuates.

Before everyone gets too excited I should point out that these are very small runs (is that the right word?) and are sold to staff and alumni and in the local district. Usually the cds make enough money to cover the cost of the next year’s recording. Still, I think a cd of my own is kind of cool.

Please don’t think I’m bragging. I’m just really excited. Now I have to start thinking about repetoire…

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When you move to a new country you realise that there are a lot of assumptions in everyday life. These include things like how do you connect the electricity and water to your house? (in Australia ring up the power company- in South Africa: go in person to the municipal offices line up, fill in the paper work, take paper work to separate queue, line up again, get to head of queue and discover that the security deposit is 3 times the amount you expected and that there is no EFTPOS, run to car, drive to bank, drive back to municipal offices and bang on the door because they are closing at 4.15).

Or how to get the telephone connected (In Australia, ring Telstra and it’s connected the day you move in – In South Africa, line up, fill in paper work, line up in a different queue and pay for installation and connection, 2 days later receive sms from phone company saying pay your bill or you’ll be disconected. Ring phone company on cell and wait on hold for 20 minutes then ask “How can you disconnect me when I have no phone yet?” Apparently I’m meant to sms my receipt number to them to prove I paid at the office, then wait 3 1/2 weeks for phone to be connected, gentleman comes to connect phone and has to leave and come back because he left a part behind. When you complain to neighbour that it took 3 1/2 weeks to connect the phone have them in all honesty tell you that you have done well to have such a short wait).

The post office, I discovered yesterday, is another place where there are assumptions. I went in with my parcel for my pal in the knitters coffee swap. The assistant weighs the parcel, tells me the price and then picks up the calculator taps away for a few seconds and then says: “Do you want it off the system? If it’s off they system then you’ll pay X.” This was considerably less than ‘on the system’, but I was completely mystified. I told her “I don’t understand.”

So she repeats again very slowly like to someone who needs special help. (I’m not helped that when I’m stressed my Australian accent becomes more pronounced). “Do you want it off the system for a cheaper price.?”

Now I’m starting to think ‘Maybe this is some sort of dodgy under the counter deal, I’ve heard of the corruption in the South Africa civil service (there’s enough on that to write three or four posts, but I won’t bore you), is she asking for some sort of tip for posting it cheaper?.

So I ask “Why isn’t there one set price?”

The sales assistant gives up at this point, Ok we had a few more I don’t understands in there, and processes the package through the system.

When that is done, she explained that off the system means you don’t have to fill out the myriad of customs forms, just a simple customs declaration and you don’t get a tracking number. Now why she couldn’t tell me this in the first place I don’t know.

I assumed, you see, that I knew how to use the post office here since I’d had no problems posting to my pal in the Favourite colour swap. Now I realise they just automatically processed that parcel ‘off the system.’

I hope that my pal likes her package. I had to go and lie down after posting it…

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my readers from the USA.

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First, some background:

Quite a few months ago Shelly began making a blanket from her left over sock yarn, but she wasn’t making socks fast enough, so she asked on her blog if anyone had any left over sock yarn (she was quite specific about this) that they weren’t going to use, but couldn’t throw away would they send it to her for her blankie. Well the Yarn Harlot got wind of it and suggested on her blog that ‘we try to bury this woman’s house in yarn’ or words to that effect.

For those of you who haven’t been following this little blogosphere drama, it was truly amazing. Shelly was inundated with yarn. Being a truly generous knitter, she took what she needed and then started to share. Look what arrived for me yesterday.

Now, it was all neatly packed in ziplock bags, but I have no selfcontrol couldn’t wait to touch all the yarn and unwrapped it before I took a photo. I actually opened the box walking from the pickup point back to my office, but we won’t talk about that. You want more pictures right? This yarn is destined to be knitted into little items for the Hottentots Holland Hospital Helpers to distribute to needy families who access hospital services. They make sure that no newborn goes home cold (and it gets very cold here). Now a question. The large ball of green in the right hand corner is laceweight and I want to make something pretty and delicate that a mother will treasure. Any ideas?

Thank you Shelly very, very much. You made my day, and in a few months time you’ll be making some families very happy too.

I also have finished objects to report. These booties (I’m embarassed to admit) have been knitted for some time. I knitted them in Australia 12 months ago and have neglected to sew them up. These are also for the hospital.

The last baby item I showed here that I knitted for myself had some sadness attatched to it as it was kind of like a memory item. This little jersey is my ‘jersey of hope’ (in keeping with my theme of looking forward not back). This yarn was sent to me by the wonderful Stephanie when I was her partner in the Favourite Colour Swap.

and a closeup of the yarn

The color in the second picture is truer to life. I still need to add a button to the neck, but it’s sewn up. Thank you Stephanie, I loved knitting with this and I think there’s enough left to do a little matching hat – when I find the perfect pattern.

I’ve gone on long enough today. Tomorrow I’ll tell you all about my trip to the post office. Cross-cultural misunderstandings abound…

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Living in the Southern Hemisphere means that Christmas is a little different to the traditional snow and sleigh rides that we commemmorate in Christmas carols. In Australia family Christmas traditions often centre around watermelon, cherries, a game of backyard cricket and a dip in the pool or a trip to the beach.

One aspect of a summer Christmas that I have always loved is the tradition of Carols by Candlelight, where the community gathers together in a park and sings carols and listens to performers. There are huge Carols – like Carols in the Domain in Sydney, and then there are carols on a more local scale. My favourite was Carols by candlelight in our local park.

I don’t remember how old I was when I first heard someone sing “Oh Holy Night” at Carols by candlelight, but I do remember thinking ‘I want to do that one day’. Well, this year I will. I will be singing “Oh Holy Night” with a mass choir backing at the Vergelegen Wine Estate Carols by Candlelight, except it’s called something else in Afrikaans. I’m pretty excited, but also feel kind of sick with the nerves, I stopped singing publically for quite a while due to nervousness. I’ll just have to suck it up and do it. They wouldn’t have asked me if they didn’t think I could do it right?

In other news: Because the world is an incredibly small place, one of the women who sings in the mass choir, works with the young man who was badly injured in the accident on Saturday. He came out of intensive care yesterday – they were uncertain for a while if he was going to pull through, but according to her he is now awake and talking and expected to make a good recovery.

We won’t talk about my attempt at seaming last night when I realised I had seamed wrong and needed to undo…

Some pictures of things that bring me joy. The house we are living in is perfect for african violets and they are flowering like mad at the moment. Also we have just picked the first beetroot from our little garden that we have set up in the front of the house (no room at the back). Simple pleasures bring great joy.

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A reality check

Saturday morning I had myself a little pity party. I was feeling very sorry for myself (not helped by being surrounded by very pregnant women and new babies I’m sure, seemed like they were everywhere I looked), and so I had a bit of a cry and wallowed in the whole self-pity thing.

Saturday afternoon as I was driving to choir rehearsal I came across an accident. A open air jeep had overturned and was lying  in the middle of the road. There was one young lad sitting on the side of the road and another being helped off the road by a bystander and what looked like a body lying unattended about a foot from the edge of the road about 10 metres from the vehicle, he wasn’t dead, just unconscious. I stopped and asked if they had called for help and if they needed assistance- there were other cars already on the scene, and a girl said, no one knows what they are doing and they are just moving the victims. So I pulled over and got out.

My school last year insisted that every member of the staff have senior first aid and resuscitation training. I managed to convince the people on the scene that they shouldn’t move the kid who was lying on the road, or give food and drink to the mobile survivors until they’d been assessed by the paramedics. We cleared the blood out of his nose and mouth and just monitored his breathing without shifting him. He was unconscious for a long time, just starting to come around as the ambulance arrived and that was 10 -15 minutes after I got there.  I left once the ambulance arrived so I don’t know how he is. He didn’t appear to have any broken limbs and he was moving his arms and legs as he came too. The professionals were there and they didn’t need more spectators. 3 brothers, one vehicle, spare a thought for that family today.

That was my reality check, that my life isn’t that bad.

Sunday, Simone came over and we made some cards and some beaded goodies for our Knitter’s Coffee Swap pals – so no pictures. I also made some earrings – which I forgot to take a photo of.

Hope to have a finished object by Tuesday or Wednesday and then that will be the last of the knitting. Yesterday was 32 degrees C, far to hot to knit. Besides, I really have to get back to the applique quilt and I can’t seem to do other crafts when knitting because I get a bit obsessed.

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Yesterday was very busy, but lots and lots of fun. I started the day with a small graduation ceremony for the students who have completed their courses. This is me and one of the vice-presidents of the college handing out their certificates.

After the ceremonies were over Simone went on a coffee/yarn/bead crawl. Everytime I go into a yarn store here I ask if they have sock yarn, when they show me the solid black/brown/grey, I then ask about self-striping and mention some brandnames in the hope that they will get the hint. Simone has started doing this too. Anyway one of the stores actually knew what I was talking about and said Kleen Ezzy in Belville has some. She was very kind and even wrote down what street the store was on.

It made no sense to us that a store selling cleaning products would stock sock yarn, but we had nothing to lose. Armed with a street directory (Simone has only been in Cape Town a year longer than me) we set off.

When we arrived we discovered that the front of the store sold cleaning products, but the rear of the store was a yarn lovers cornucopia. I was so over stimulated by all the yarn was almost jumping for joy.See, self-striping sock yarn. Made in Turkey. They only had these colours and a dark reddish mix (which came home with me – pictures at a later date). They had a lot of very nice yarn – much less acyrilic and fun fur nastiness than a lot of stores. This will definitely be a place we’ll go back to. I also noticed that yarn I had bought locally was 4 Rand less a ball there.

I found some yarn for my knitter’s coffee swap partner, so no pictures of that. I just hope she likes it.

After the yarn store we had coffee at Mugg & Beanand then went to the Helderberg Nature Reserve so Simone could take pictures for her entry for the competition on the Knitter’s coffee swap. Here she is with her special friend. She held the coffee cup out to the tortoise and he walked right into it and gave us both a fright. They can move surprisingly quickly.

The bontebok at the Reserve have had a babyisn’t it cute?

Today we are having a BBQ at the beach as a break-up activity for the students, so I should go and get ready for that.

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Maybe it’s just me, but I find the following mural vaguely disturbing. I have some questions about the exact nature of Charles’ relationship with that cow…


1. This shop sells fantastic, locally produced cheese.

2. The guy inside the shop actually looks like his painting.

3. Thanks Ann for asking about weird things we’d seen.

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On Saturday afternoon Gorgeous Man and I took a picnic lunch to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. These gardens are in the heart of Capetown at the base of Table Mountain. They are really pretty and they had some very cool plants like this one.

One of my favourite parts of the garden, apart from the succulents, was the section that was filled with statues. Now I can’t be sure, but I think this woman is knitting.

They also had lots of bird statues/carvings:

there were little birds.

Medium sized birds:

big birds:

and really big birds:

That’s the base of Table Mountain in the background.

Sunday was good, I went to Simone’s place. She had a manicure party, so now I have beautiful hands. I forgot to take pictures though.

Now that we have been assigned our partners for the Knitter’s Coffee Swap we are planning on doing a yarn crawl this week. I’m actually stressing quite a bit about what yarn to send. I visited the local yarn store on Friday and just wanted to cry – 85% of their stock is ‘fancy’ yarn – you know like feathers and eyelash, good for making scarves and not much else. The rest of the stuff is acryllic. I’m pushed finding stuff I want to knit with, let alone buying for someone else!

All is not lost though, we have heard rumours of a place selling colourful sock yarn and there are a few places that make/spin their own yarn from South African sheep and goats so we’ll see what we can find.

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