SPAIN Day 5

Breakfast

Yeah, we got away a little late today. 12pm would be the exact time we departed. What can you do if you sit down for an extended breakfast with Mary the Canadian and George the American and discuss really interesting issues over coffee, doughnuts and the only form of egg we could find, a potato frittata?

As we left Astorga this is the doom and gloom that awaited us. I am hysterically happy to report that it threatened to rain the whole day but it never did.

We saw a few beautiful villages, had tea after five kilometres, lunch after another five and then had to stitch it to make it to ‘Rabenal something something’ for dinner. A what a tough life.

South Africans

I am enjoying being the exotic nationality on the Camino. People’s faces light up when we say we’re from South Africa and they all tell us about the fellow countrywomen travelling a day or so ahead of us.

I am not missing home yet.

 

Food

Eish, the food is an issue. The Peregrino (Pilgrim) menu consists of white bread, meat, cheese and MORE white bread. As much as I love Iberian ham, after three days of overindulging you tend to go pale and dizzy at the sight of another massive pig hind leg hanging in the shop window. (I tend to agree with Chris from Ireland’s theory that all the food for the Camino is made in one big factory and shipped in to all the small towns.)

Yet after walking 20odd kilometres with a 10kilo pack on your back you don’t quite feel like slaving away behind a stove in an albergue.

What we have resorted to doing is buying fresh fruit and nuts wherever we can, ordering vegetable soup and fruit salad in restaurants. I will keep you posted on what other plans these Boeremeisies come up with.

The knee

After George’s pressure point treatment and wearing a solid knee guard from mid thigh to mid calf the whole day the knee (and dodgy hamstring) seems to be holding up just fine. And no, that’s not me in the picture below.

SPAIN Day 4

Last night

Our night at the casa rural was exquisite. Mercedes and her husband went all out to spoil us. The poor French vegan was not as lucky.

Normally I do not have anything against vegans or ‘Zee French’, but Christoph was quite ‘unique’. He dried his underpants next to the fire, under our noses and proceeded to pick the dead skin off his toes! Sies man.

For dinner he received one ‘leeetle’ (yes that is a supposed French accent) plate with pasta, some corn and tomato. The Wife and I received plate after plate of chicken, frittata, grilled peppers, salad, fish, cheese and jamon. For dessert The Wife got flan, I sliced some beautiful nectarines. To top the evening off we were served homemade cherry liqueur. Oh, la la. Frenchie declined as he does not drink alcohol. We got hugs this morning when we left, I don’t think Frenchie did.

 

Starting the day

This is the view that greeted us.

Accommodation

The hostel on the first night did not turn out to be a bloodcurdling horror movie. There was enough space between the bunker beds, we each had a locker, no one snored and the facilities were clean.

But in the casa rural’s you meet the locals, eat local food, sleep in a beds with good linen, get soft towels, have a bathroom to yourself, etc.

Hostels cost between 5 – 8Euro, where the casa rural set us back 40Euro. I have to admit, I will gladly pay the 40Euro.

 

Scenic route

Back home we own a little Fiat bakkie and the usual one day trip from Joburg to Cape Town we do in four to five days. We take every dirt road and mountain pass we can find, stop to make coffee and just smell the roses.

We took the scenic route today. Geez, it was tough going. Uphill, downhill, across a rocky ridge and through a muddy patch. Face it, South Africa has some of the greatest landscapes in the world and even though the Spanish countryside is pretty, a scenic route in the next few days better include a kick ass medieval castle or gothic labyrinth, because we will continue taking the scenic route.

Astorga

Meeting George

We met George the American, massage therapist and ex-bar owner in Astorga in the dodgy hostel we all booked into. I bought George a beer and coaxed him into looking at the knee. Alas, it looks like I have a pulled hamstring and some tendinitis. Yah for me.

 

Checking in with the nuns

During dinner at Hotel Gaudi we met Mary the Canadian (as you might have noticed surnames are replaced by countries of origins on the Camino) who told us about the nunnery, around the corner from the dodgy hostel, that rents our private rooms.

We duly said goodbye to the 8Euros we had each spent at the hostel, snuck in to get our packs and booked into the nunnery for a soft bed, soft towels and private bathrooms! Whoohoo!

SPAIN Day 3 – The rain in Spain…

Getting up early

So this morning the albergue kicked us out. At blooming 7:30am. We hit the road at 8am. This is the scene that met us, a dark rainy night!

 

Not deterred (yet) we did some sightseeing. 

 

(Limited) Apology to Cape Union Mart

I always scoff at people who buy K-Way, Cape Union Mart’s house brand. I ridicule them in fact. In 2005 I bought a tent from them, camped in it in Italy in the mud for two weeks and then asked for a refund the moment I landed on South African soil. I handed the tent in at the Hyde Park store along with some Italian mud, a long list of what is wrong with the tent and an even longer list of improvements I had made to the tent.

They were quite gracious about the matter, I have to admit and refunded me in full.

When planning for Spain, I looked at the pink (can you believe it) hiking shirt I bought from Cape Union Mart, and though, Ah, it’s not like I am going to hike Kilimanjaro. The Camino is a leisurely hike through the pretty countryside.

But after three hours of walking in the rain, and moaning about it, The Wife and I compared how drenched we were. Low and behold, my pink K-Way shirt was dry and toasty. It in fact did wick the moisture away!

So I will continue to scoff but cut down on the ridiculing.

 

Spirit

It has only been 1.5 days, but I can honestly say that one of the most enjoyable things about the Camino is the spirit amongst the hikers. You greet, chat casually or get involved in serious discussions. You lament sore feet, compare starting dates and generally share a camaraderie that I last felt when I lived in Scotland and bumped into a South African, especially an Afrikaans speaking South African.

 

Green tea

Every blooming small town in this part of Spain stocks green tea!

 

Tractor

Let me be clear, I enjoy physical exercise, but it does not come naturally to me. It takes some effort. People who push themselves to break through some wall of exhaustion and come out the other side feeling great, are foreign to me.

Having explained my disposition, you have to admit that walking 26km’s and carrying about 10kg’s is quite a record for me! At one stage I even had to pep talk the wife up a hill, but then I did also consider, on more than one occasion, to flag down a tractor for a lift!

 

Molino Galochas

With 3km’s left we spotted a sign saying ‘casa rural’. Yip, you guessed it, I am parking off in front of a fire, sipping on a cold beer, typing this post in a setting that makes me feel like quite the movie star. The albergues, dorms and communal showers can wait until tomorrow. Tonight a very enigmatic Spanish couple is cooking me a Spanish meal, serving me vino, making me breakfast and sending me off on my merry way tomorrow morning.

 

 

SPAIN Coffee continued

Two years ago, when I cycled through Catalonia, Spain, I had good coffee on Barajas airport when I landed in Madrid and when I flew out from Madrid. Everything in between was quite horrible.

Imagine my surprise when I set out to make tea at the very basic D. Antonino y D Cinia Hostel (yeah I couldn’t pronounce that one either) and found a decent looking automated coffee machine. I decided to try one cafe solo, the Spanish version of espresso, to test the waters. I was blown away. Half the espresso was crema, the other half coffee!

Very excitedly I made a second espresso and snuck it into the dorm (on top of the cups of boiled water with lids on) where The Wife was lounging. I reversed into the room to hide the surprise to the last minute. A gesture I thought damned romantic. As I swung around though The Wife’s espresso went flying into the air. It landed on the floor, against the white walls and against the white mattress of my bed.

Ah well, I swallowed my espresso, mopped up the floor and returned to the vending machine. With the third espresso in hand I returned to the scene of the crime, the dorm, just to slip on the remnants of the second espresso!

Imagine a French waiter on a surfboard. The top half: nose in the air, ‘petite café’ in hand. Bottom half: one leg extended towards forwards the wall, the other stretched out behind me. The aftermath was quite interesting. I hit the wall with the toes on my good leg, pulled a muscle in my bad leg, spilled half of the new espresso and knocked over the two cups of boiled water…’

The Wife proceeded to grab the espresso cup from me saying, “Let me just drink it! It is jinxed.”

SPAIN Day 2

Apparently we won’t win first prize in the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage.

1. We slept late and only got out of the hotel at 11am (after having a huuuuuuge continental breakfast) and went sightseeing first. Leon turned out to be a kick ass Spanish city.

 

 

 

 

2. With the sightseeing done we walked around Leon hoping to find a sign (not from God) or an official auberge where we could buy maps and passports. What we found instead were two highly efficient German Camino walkers who said we could just follow them! We hastily agreed. Whilst chatting and following our two new friends we accidentally found a hostel and passports!

 

3. We only left on our first day of walking at 14:00. The fellow hikers shook their heads in dismay saying a) we won’t find accommodation because the auberge’s will be full and b) we won’t find food or water because the shops are closed for the Festival of Saint Froiaan.

 

4. They were wrong about the food! The yellow arrows took us straight through a street market celebrating the festival. Everyone who had closed their shops was manning food stalls in front of the Leon Palace. And the Wife and I we have a thing for markets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. We only managed roughly about 7km’s on day 1 before seeking out the very first auberge we went past. We couldn’t camp on their lawn because of the sprinkler system and ended up in the dreaded ‘hostel hall’. Will keep you posted on how that turns out.

SPAIN Coffee @ Chamartín Station

Our first coffee stop for the trip was not at a wildly exciting venue – Cafe Cafe at the Chamartín railway station.

 

 As I only had 3 hours sleep (only at 2am this morning, after stupidly trying to sleep sitting upright for four hours, as the sick Wife deserved the three open seats next to her to recoup on, only then did it dawn on me that I could have slept comfortable on the floor of the plane, well cushioned by the abundance of little fluffy pillows floating around in a semi empty plane) and I could find nothing dairy free to eat on the plane Burger King would have sufficed. I lie. Burger King would never suffice. I would rather go hungry.

Anyway, the acorn fed Spanish ham was exceptional and the espresso was short, chocolaty and not half bad, but I vow to find an utterly thrilling coffee stop in the mountains of Spain with a monastery as a backdrop. Watch this space.

We did notice some interesting public art in and around the railway station. See pics below.

 

 

SPAIN Introduction

SPAIN

 

It was over a tranquil, extended Sunday afternoon lunch a few months ago that the wife and I lamented the fact that we had not been on a holiday for over 18 months. Our good friend Tilla said, ‘Why don’t you walk the Camino?’ Something clicked.

Today we are on a fast train heading towards Leon, Spain. We start the Camino de Santiago walk tomorrow from a little town called Villadangos del Paramo and it all feels slightly surreal.

 

Planning

Apart from deciding which socks to buy (Falke TK2), booking plane tickets to Madrid and deciding where we will start, we have left everything else up to ‘the spur of the moment’ decisions.

 

Packing

When you realize you will be carrying your bedroom, kitchen, study and that infamously heavy toiletry bag on your back for 300 km’s, weight becomes a serious issue. That explains why we spent a whole Saturday afternoon weighing everything from our tent to underwear on the kitchen scale. (The kitchen scale can weigh as little as 10grams after all.)

We poured all liquids into lightweight plastic bottles, bought uber light, uber sexy Thermarest NeoAir mattresses and little baby toothbrushes for 6 year olds, dusted off the uber lightweight, uber sexy Mountain Hardwear tent and decided to leave behind the always popular Kudu biltong.

We got our packs down to roughly 9kg’s each, but we’re still contemplating on what to leave behind or mail back to South Africa. (Like the pair of Levis we mailed home during a cycling trip through Scotland 12 years ago. We were obviously clueless back then for having packed them in the first place.)

 

Antibiotics and a busted knee

The wife came down with pneumonia two days before the trip, so she’s on antibiotics for the first time in ten years.

I busted a knee trying foolishly to save a toddler who was hurtling down a cement walkway. Needless to say the toddler was fine, but this old bag hit the cement and banged up her knee.

Will keep you posted on how these two possible holiday impediments may pan out.

 

ARTS ALIVE The Soil

I took my two year old friend, Grace, to the zoo this afternoon. It was her first visit and she particularly enjoyed the swans and the ducks. As I stepped into the new ‘open door’ cage/dome filled with loads of wondrous birds, (holding Grace in my arms in fear of a crazy duck rushing at her) her eyes popped open and she said, ‘Wowee!’

That is exactly how I felt when I saw The Soil for the first time tonight.

This Soweto-based acapella ensemble is fresh, passionate and unbelievably talented.

ARTS ALIVE ‘Little Poof’

Laughing at ourselves is not a common enough practice in South Africa. In ‘Little Poof’, a musical comedy, the gays however laugh at themselves and what an enjoyable experience it is.

 

 

 

Bruce J. Little pokes fun at all the stereotypes – the hairdresser queen, the straight oke explaining why he is straight, the fag hag, etc – but he also takes a look at the more serious issues of isolation and rejection faced by especially young gay people, without the play becoming too ‘heavy’.

 

In between the hilarious sketches Bruce, accompanied on piano, sings a few classic songs. He does have quite a good voice, but unfortunately not a brilliant voice. It doesn’t grip you and it slows down the energy of the show, especially when he performs two songs in a row.

 

 

See clip below. (Apologies for the shaky camera work – because of laughter I was inadvertently kicking my tripod.)

 

 

ARTS ALIVE ‘Oumagrootjie’

In the year 1908 Oumagrootjie was married at the age of 16. In 2008, her great grandchild, Hannelie Coetzee, used one of Oumagrootjie’s wedding photographs as a reference for a granite and marble mosaic.

In 2010, with the help of Arts Alive funding, (and Brenda Devar’s belief in the artwork) ‘Oumagrootjie’ was eventually ‘laid to rest’ as a permanent public artwork in Fordsburg, Johannesburg.

 

As Hannelie creates environmentally aware artwork, ‘Oumagrootjie’ is constructed from cut off granite and marble picked up from illegal dumpsites in and around Joburg.

 

‘Oumagrootjie’ is the result of Hannelie’s ongoing exploration of her childhood and her heritage as a South African and an Afrikaner. The real Oumagrootjie, as an impoverished Afrikaner, had to queue in Fordsburg for food after the Anglo Boer War.

 

 

ARTS ALIVE Raiders of the lost Aardvark

On my way to the Dance Factory last night to watch the 21st installment of the Raiders series, I did not quite anticipate dancing onto the stage, and onto a wobbling ladder, with a pair of red boxer shorts on my head. No.

 

Although there is no need for me to start writing an Oscar acceptance speech just yet, in which I will obviously thank my mother, I fully enjoyed the audience participation, an experience I normally find hair raising. (I am that audience member that makes the person next to me believe they are being called up when in fact the actor is pointing directly at me.) Father and son duo, Nicolas and Luke Ellenbogen, create such positive energy on stage through laughter, crazy props and an even crazier storyline, that one cannot help but be swept up by the play.

 

 

 

Luke plays Salty Hepburn, a half blind airplane mechanic/pilot who inadvertently (as he and the Aardvark is the last half blind pilot and decrepit plane left) ends up transporting hidden messages, battling with Lions (in the form of Lion Match boxes) and crocodiles (in the form of Crocs shoes) and saving a whole troop of gorillas, and of course the world.

 

 

 

Nicolas plays a pink flamingo, a camel, a German baron, a German scientist, Marie Biscuit (Salty’s love interest) and Marie Biscuit disguised as Hari Mata!

 

It’s good, clean family fun, but also award winning theatre.

 

ARTS ALIVE Kaput (Play)

It is quite thrilling when three terrific players and only a few props on a barren stage in a Joburg theatre can transport a whole audience to a small coastal town next to the Mediterranean Sea, when skillful performances and a well crafted script makes you chuckle at the sibling rivalry of two brothers, make you wince at the tragedy that befalls a loved one, but most importantly, makes you think about the futility of war.

ARTS ALIVE Ronnie Govender’s At the Edge and other Cato Manor Stories

 

It does occasionally happen that you find an artwork/film/theatre production that is both accessible to the average person on the street, but also a work of considerable depth and creative merit.

 

At the Edge and other Cato Manor Stories is such an artwork. It is truly an engaging play.

 

Humour

The humour is subtle, it does not destroy or debase the object it is poking fun at. It gently lifts out the idiosyncrasies of our complicated society and makes us laugh at others, but more importantly, at ourselves.

It also draws the audience into the more serious and sometimes tragic nature of this collection of tales arising from Cato Manor.

 

Script

The beautifully crafted script is so exceptional, that the script itself falls away and draws you into another world. Not once do you become aware of the fact that Ronnie Govender, at some stage, sat down to write a script that will entertain you, charm you and perhaps teach you something.

 

Jailoshini

The wonderful performance by Jailoshini Naidoo adds to the seamless storytelling. She shifts physically and emotionally, with almost no effort, between child and adult, man and woman, feminine and masculine, humour and pathos.

 

 

Informative

An American anthropology professor once asked me how Apartheid had affected me negatively. I wasn’t quite sure what she was referring to.

Sure, my parents were average working class people, I had to put myself through varsity and I voted to end the madness when the time came, but I was still white, I still grew up and was schooled under the ‘protection’ of the National Party.

After an hour long discussion I realized I was cheated. I was cheated out of growing up with and sharing in the rich and diverse cultures of South Africa.

Watching At the Edge and other Cato Manor Stories gave me a glimpse into one of those diverse cultures.

 

No judgement

Even though the play delves into our troubled past and holds it up for us to learn from, there is no sense of judgment in the play. It is quite refreshing.

 

You walk out not feeling guilty, but inspired to right the wrongs of the past.

 

ARTS ALIVE Petra Ronner & Jill Richards

When I started reviewing films, music and plays, I learnt early on that whether I ‘liked’ something, was of little importance.

Some brilliant films are not meant to be liked or enjoyed. ‘The White Ribbon’, for instance, is a cinematic masterpiece but utter torture to watch. I respected the craft involved in creating such a film, but hated watching every minute of it.

 

 

The performance by the celebrated Ronner & Richards falls in the same category. I could see the brilliance, dedication and passion involved in creating such a contemporary piano performance, but it was enormously challenging to watch/listen to. See the short clip below.

 

 

 

ARTS ALIVE Mulato Astatke

 

Sometimes we miss opportunities to experience greatness. I had only one day, a Monday, in Paris and intended on spending it in the Louvre. The Louvre is however closed on a Monday.

I also cycled into Edinburgh, during the festival, on the night indie-rocker PJ Harvey performed a legendary show. I only learnt of the performance the next morning.

 

But then I cycled around Lucca, Italy, on a Thursday and by accident arrived at the door of an age old cathedral where, an hour later, students from the nearby opera school would perform arias, only on Thursdays, from great operas written by Italian composers.

I also spotted a thumbnail advertisement in a magazine, I only bought that once, of a concert by the infamous New York based folk artist, Ani Difranco. The concert was in Glasgow. I was living in Edinburgh at the time, a mere 55minute train ride away.

On both occasions I did not have to wait for months or years to pass to know that it was an evening I would remember for the rest of my life, I knew whilst watching the performances that I was surrounded by greatness.

 

Friday night was such an evening.

 

Sitting in the Wits Great Hall, watching the Ethiopian jazz legend, Mulato Astatke, perform his particular brand of genius, only equaled by his humble nature, I knew I was a witness to something momentous.

 

ARTS ALIVE Swan Lake in Mohiniyattam

I may have missed the point of this performance. It has happened before. (I hear all of you gasp.)

 

Unless you’re Lady Gaga bleeding from your costume on the VMA stage, a smoke machine dose not normally bode well for me. Neither does multi-coloured spotlights, shiny costumes or a backtrack that distorts.

 

I went into the performance ‘blind’. In other words, apart from having seen the traditional Swan Lake and some traditional Indian dancing, I did not read up on the new choreography, the interpretation or Mohiniyattan. Then the production can stand on its own two feet.

Take Darren Rajbal for example. His dance performance at the opening ceremony was incredibly precise, well rehearsed and moving. I did not need to that that he is almost completely deaf to appreciate his talent.

Swan Lake in Mohiniyattan was a disappointment.

 

The individual dancers were not in top form and the groups were not synchronised. It does not matter whether you put on ballet shoes or Converse All Stars, whether the performance is fast paced or slow and sensual, you need to be at the top of your dancing game. You need to move the audience.

 

There were glimpses of how magical it could be to watch Mohiniyattam, the classical dance of Kerala (India), to the music of Tchaikovsky`s Swan Lake.

 

I left the performance feeling that I was cheated, that the production did not do justice to the concept.

 

PS: My neighbours upstairs are very familiar with traditional Indian dancing and last night explained some of the finer nuances I might have missed. Dilip will be attending the performance tonight. So I might have someone knocking on my door in the middle of the night with an opinion differing from mine. I will keep you posted.

ARTS ALIVE Karl Jenkins – ‘Stabat Mater’

 

The last time I attended a classical concert, I was five and still dressed by my mother. Imagine my apprehension at having to review ‘Stabat Mater’, a powerful thirteenth century hymn, as interpreted by Karl Jenkins, the most performed living composer and finding a suitable outfit!

 

Sitting, for the first time I might add, in the imposing Johannesburg City Hall last night, with my ensemble outfit I believe leaning more towards ‘elegant’ than ‘rock star’, surrounded by the sound of a 70 piece orchestra and a 140 odd member UJ choir, my apprehension quickly faded.

I realized I merely had to say that the work of Karl Jenkins made me relive the unfettered joy I felt as a wide-eyed five-year old, sitting next to my mother during our visits to the Kroonstad Civic Centre.

 

For more detailed info visit the following sites:

www.karljenkins.com

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stabat_Mater

www.artsalive.co.za

 

 

KKNK – 3 April ‘Afrikaaps’

Afrikaaps

Die konsep agter Afrikaaps is vars en die deelnemers het hope talent, maar hulle kort bietjie oefening en musikale afronding. Woon bietjie n optrede van Die Antwoord by.

 

In n neutedop…

Afrikaaps gaan oor die bevordering van die Afrikaans wat op die strate van die Cape Flats gepraat word en gee agtergrond oor die onstaan van Afrikaans.

 

 

Die bekoring van en die probleem met die stuk…

Soos reeds genoem is die konsep cool. Die video beelde wat op die agtergrond geprojekteer word is cool en die mense is cool. Dit is dalk die probleem. Daar is te veel gefokus op dit wat cool is en te min aandag gegee aan produksie, oefening en inhoud.

Die hoogtepunt…

Elke deelnemer het sang talent, dans talent en skop.

 

 

Die produksie…

Die klank was regtig swak. Behalwe dat jy lirieke nie kon hoor nie, (tot die sangers halfpad ander mikrofone in die hand gestop is) het al die instrumente en stemme op die laaste song saamgesmelt om een groot geraas te maak.

Aan wie sal ek dit aanbeveel?

Vir mense wat hou van vars, nuwe musiek maar wat geduld sal hê met ‘nuwelinge’ wat nog nie genoeg ervaring het nie.

 

Vir verdere inligting…

http://www.kknk.co.za/vertonings/afrikaaps