Sunday, June 11, 2006

Winter's Embrace

Winter…7 am and still as dark as the inside of George Bush’s brain.

With the seasons reversed down here at the nether end of the globe, the shortest day of our year falls in June. June 22, to be exact, nearly a fortnight distant. Although the recent days have been bright and clear, there is an unmistakable crispness to the air that lets you know, make no mistake about it, winter is upon us.

The doggies wear their hated jerseys day and night now, huddling together in the fat, cushy doggie bed at night and squirming into the big bed full of warm people at first light. Slim, long-legged Candy, with her curly white poodle cut, wears her forest green knit turtleneck like a supermodel, platinum ears flowing, dark, expressive eyes flashing. Portly Nash, on the other hand, looks like a rotund little white-whiskered professor in his fleecy green-and-grey argyle vest.

The past few nights haven’t been cold enough to turn on the heaters, although we had a cold snap a week or so back that had us all huddled together beneath the fat new duvet we bought on holiday last year. Amazingly, South African houses are built without heating systems…unless you count fireplaces (which are no more numerous than in American homes)…and the winters here can be bone-chillingly cold, particularly with the stiff winds that are an integral part of the Cape Town experience. Those winds are a blessing in the dry, scorching summer months, for they both cool the air and remove air pollution, leaving the area a veritable playground in paradise. In the winter, however, they serve to exacerbate the deep chill.

By the time the gardener arrived at eight the sun had flung itself into the sky, but its light lacked warmth. Time being money for him, Christopher set to work immediately, his breath issuing out in a visible vapour ordinarily uncommon here. The lack of winter cloud cover proved itself a blessing, allowing the sun to grow robust enough to finally warm the crisp air and chill earth. By ten, Christopher’s jacket was draped neatly over a patio chair, his bare arms glistening with sweat as he clipped and snipped the rain-driven recent growth of what was rapidly becoming a small suburban jungle. Only Christopher’s weekly ministrations keep the enthusiastic vegetation at bay.

The afternoon was sunny and warm outside, but the thick brick walls of the house tend to retain the night-time chill. Sans furnace, with only the feeble heat of a fireplace to warm us…and then only in a small circle immediately in front of the hearth…I pondered dinner: what kind of dish can I prepare that will cook all day and warm up the house? The answer was a sudden craving for Texas chili and that truck stop delicacy, the Chili Size. A quick inventory of the cupboards revealed I need a few things, so it was off to the market and, an hour later, a rich pot of chili bubbled on the stove, sending a fragrant heat wafting through the house.

Dark descended upon us as quickly as it had decamped in the morning. At five I handed Christopher his daily pay and a quart of chili, the old mayo jar thickly wrapped in newspapers, and by six, when we sat down to heaping plates of chili, onion, and grated cheddar, the moonless night had returned. Black as bin Laden’s heart, the night hurls itself upon us without even a twilight’s warning, banishing the frail winter sun until it can screw up the courage to bring us yet another pale and pallid morning. It is winter in Cape Town.


  1. Thank you for your insight into your view from the other side.

    I dip into your blog at least once a day to see what you have to say.

    As a Capetonian, I enjoy all that the city has to offer, but I'm not blind to its faults.

    It took a little while to take in your fiction and your poetry, which was on a different tack from your usual. I take it you were polishing one of your facets that we havn't seen before.

    All the best - keep writing.

  2. Hi SV. Haven't read your blog in ages, but once again now that I'm catching up, I've enjoyed your posts immensely! Keep writing and hope you're keeping well otherwise. Marius


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