26 March 2020- the beginning of weirdness and the day that turned the world upside down. Enter Covid-19, exit work- practically overnight. I’m a travel writer and a theatre PR and as you can imagine, it’s a hot mess and I’m vacillating between panic and this fake vacation vibe. All I can do though, like everyone else, is get a grip, take one day at a time and stay positive. TBH, I’m not really winning, but I’m persevering. And drinking a lot of wine 🍷👀.
LOCKED DOWN, OUT OF TOWN
We’re doing Lockdown in McGregor, a village just under two hours from Cape Town off Route 62. Confinement, no matter where you’re at physically and/or emotionally, isn’t for the fainthearted. 21 days plus, in the same place with the same person or people, and an occasional outing to the store. Happy days! But, straight there and straight back. No stopping for privileged activities: over-the-counter banter over an espresso, meeting a friend for a glass of wine, going for a run, taking a stroll, going home the long way around. There are eyes everywhere! McGregor is charming, the people are wonderful and being in the Langeberg countryside is beautiful, but I want my Sea Point life back – my rituals and routines, those silly stabilisers that make my day and settle me down. If ever there was a time to appreciate it all, that time is certainly now. #thelittlethings
Four years ago I bought a cottage in McGregor, just after a press trip organised by vegan foodie and lifestyle PR Mira Weiner. It’s nothing fancy but is perfect in every sense of the word and, having lived in apartments all my growing-up life, it captured my heart because of an asset I’ve always coveted – a big, beautiful garden.
The upside of hunkering down in the country is that I can wander about outside, in this soothing private space to a soundscape of bird chatter. It’s becalming and yes, I’m counting my blessings, fully aware of what so many are dealing with right now, in all manner of situations.
We don’t get to spend enough time in McGregor. I work most weekends with Paul at his PROPER shirt stand at the Oranjezicht City Farm (which has also closed down until further notice), or, in my PR life, I’m often opening a show on a Friday or Saturday night. So we rent out the house on Airbnb and snatch a Sunday/Monday staycation whenever we can, usually short stints so this long-stay comes with its upside- I’ve been able to slow down and I can now do the things I’ve been putting off for ages. I’m in those flower beds, soil under my fingernails, tackling weeds, planting succulents, training jasmine along the wall and plopping seeds into punnets.
As usual, I’ve been looking at ways to improve on sustainability and have been readying a patch for a veggie garden with the aim of feeding us of course but also for those who work for us here in McGregor, who’ll be able to pluck what they need, as they need it. I’m taking tips from a resourceful organic farmer in Russia (Saratov Farm), my dear friend Constantin Tokarev who supplies the most incredible tomatoes to uber chef Vladimir Mukhin and the White Rabbit Family suite of restaurants in Moscow and Sochi. In 2019 The White Rabbit, the group’s flagship eatery held the 9th spot in the The Best Chef Awards and placed 13 on the World’s Best 50 hotlist. I had the privilege of meeting both Vladimir and Constantin in Moscow last November at IKRA 2019 and my heartfelt thanks to Tamsin Snyman and Manuela Fissore-Barker for creating that opportunity for me. Anyhow, I digress – back to my seedlings, I’ve been watching the first shoots pop up and it makes me feel incredibly content. Oh, I’m also keen to get a few chickens for their eggs…..am finding out more about how that works from my stepson Kenneth who has a brood of his own on his farm in Portugal.
Nature – always my prescription for wellness and a perfect LD distraction.
The last time I baked anything was probably in my first year of marriage (we’ve just had our 29th wedding anni) when I was still trying to impress Paul haha! Seriously though, I’m a flop of a baker but, lockdown, and making bread is coming in hot. Scrolling through Facebook on Day 2, I came across a video of Miki Redelinghuys preparing to make a loaf (see below for the *recipe). She had me at “it only takes a few minutes ” and, not a word of a lie, it’s the fastest, most effortless thing I’ve ever made and it was delish! 10 minutes of prep, 1 hour to rise in a warm spot (I put mine in the sun on the stoep) and 45 minutes in the oven. Slice it fresh and warm, with a thick smear of farm butter and apricot jam. Or make French toast, drizzled with maple syrup and, voila, you have a winner! Making bread at home is cost effective and one loaf between 2 people lasts 2 days.
- Grease a baking tin / 4 cups cake flour / 1 tsp salt / 1 tsp sugar / 1 pkt yeast / sift all / then add 2 cups warm water to that/ knead in the bowl with your hands until it’s gooey / transfer to to the tin / leave outside in the sun, covered with a cloth for 1 hour / bake at 180 degrees for 45 mins to an hour
COMPOSTING & ECOBRICKING
In a village more than anywhere else, it feels more appropriate than ever for all organic waste to go back into the earth. Paul did some googling and voila, we have started our own compost heap at the back of the garden. It’s easy to set up: you start with a bed of twigs, then add a layer of your waste (peels, egg shells, old bread etc), then add a layer of old grass cuttings and repeat. After a few weeks you should have some sort of mulch that can be mixed in with the soil as an added nutrient.
Dry non-biodegradables and non-recyclables go into my ecobrick – chewing gum, foil, cling wrap, used plastic bags etc, anything that meets the contents criteria and can be stuffed down the nozzle. Between the two, it helps lower my carbon footprint, which is very important to me.
FREE ONLINE WEBINARS & WORKOUTS; VIRTUAL GAME DRIVES, MUSEUM VISITS & THEATRE
Never thought I’d take an online class- throws back to those Jane Fonda workout vids from back in the day. But necessity dictates so I tune in daily to my brother Geoff Foat’s P2 Pointphysio 5pm daily lockdown challenge: functional fitness plus HIIT. It works for me. Gotta get the heart rate up and burn calories. Talking of excercise, my Virgin RED days are over-I’ve had to (temporarily) cancel my Silo membership, for obvious cutting-back reasons, so home workouts may just be a firm fixture on my post C-19 calendar. Meh 😒
Webinars are also an excellent and productive way to spend an hour or two. I took a class with Lauren Dallas which was really informative and left me wanting to go further with her and learn more. She is concise in her delivery and really spells it out clearly which really works for me (social media for dummies 101!). It’s a valued opportunity to up my game on social media, something I really need to do now that I’m handling social media side of things for certain clients.
Love that the Fugard Theatre is free- streaming Master Harold and the Boys until 20 April (for R150 you can also gain access to the film Moffie) and that museums around the world are offering virtual tours of exhibitions, like the Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town, Prado in Madrid, Van Gogh in Amsterdam, Musee d’Orsay in Paris, the British Museum and more. And on the wild side, any chance to go on (virtual) safari and I’m there! Check out these game drives via Wild Earth !
Here we are, with two weeks to go still, and rumours of an extension. Aside from staving off a nervous breakdown and working on a backlog of editorials and PR campaigns for shows at the end of the year/2021, I’ve had a lot of time to think about the post C-19 world that is likely to be unfamiliar in many ways and is going to force many to re-think pretty much everything.
It’s a time for community and generosity, in whichever way we can muster it. The other day I swopped a bottle of wine for a few bunches of spinach, chillies and herbs with my neighbours Judy and chef Ryan Josten, he of Karoux fame. One of my dearest McGregor friends (we have a number of wonderful friends in this charming little village) is Mary Corpe of First Step Ballet McGregor and now and then I bump into her on a grocery store run and it’s a highlight of an otherwise static day.
Each time I go to the store, I add a few basic items to my basket for the relief effort here in the village. We have to look out for each other, as far as possible.
MORE ON MCGREGOR, STARTING WITH FOOD & WINE ON VOORTREKKER ROAD (& a little beyond) (after Lockdown in May!) Thanks to Mary for helping me with this list-there’s much more to add but I have space constraints on this post)
The Fat Lady’s Arms for superb pizza and other delish dishes. The venue has seen many adaptations in the past, most notably as Karoux, the intimate eatery owned by McGregorite Ryan Josten. Open Wed-Sun for dinner.
Lots happening here with cocktail afternoons, burger nights, Italian, Mexican etc…pop past and have fun! It’s a fab, friendly vibe & we had a very festive NYE there last year!
51 run by Philip & Gerard, serves a good coffee, breakfast and lunch. Open Thurs-Sun from 09h to 15h30 & for dinner on Mondays. Booking essential, via Whats App: 083 675 0403
Bemind for wine tasting and excellent vino: MCC Brut NV, a sauvignon blanc and a dreamy selection of reds – cinsault, syrah and shiraz – all handcrafted by resident garagiste Ilse Schutte. Another fantastic white wine made from grapes grown jist outside the village ad made by Lourens van der Westhuizen from Arendsig is Solara
Lord’s for wine tastings and light snacks- about 5 minutes out of town on the ‘road to nowhere’. Jacie Oosthuizen is the viticulturalist and Samuel Lekay is the assistant wine maker. Last year Lord’s Wines MCC Brut Rosé and MCC Brut won Silver and Bronze in the Bottle Fermented Sparkling category at the International Wine and Spirit Competition. The wine is truly fabulous -try their reds too- and the views across the valley are gorgeous. Call+27 23 625 1265 for operating hours or click here for their website.
M&M run by the lovely Debbie, for fresh produce, farm eggs, free range meat and other deli type wares. Open 7 days a week from 09h-15h. Two of my favourite delicacies stocked at M&M: Heritage tomatoes and yoghurt, both from Sy in the village.
At The Courtyard for live music and dinner- call 082 445 2145 for more info.
How Bazaar is a coffee shop-come-gallery run by a wonderful team, Barbara and Frans. Try the banting toastie and thank me later!
Temenos and Tebaldis, a retreat and restaurant open Tuesday to Sunday for breakfasts and lunches and Wednesday and Thursday nights offering country cuisine and all in a stunning garden setting with peacocks too. On Friday and Saturday evenings are a la carte nights. Call 023 625 1115 or 023 625 1871 for reservations.
A FEW OTHER THINGS TO DO:
Walk, hike, trail run, mountain bike in the Krans – check with the local Tourism Office for more info about the various trails and the Krans and Vrolijkheid Reserves.
Watch a movie at Wahnfried, book a pilates / yoga / pottery class, shop for collectables at Marlen, buy pottery and natural soaps (for both you and your pet)) at Millstone Pottery and so on. Hit me up if you need to know more. Or take a drive to the cactus and succulent nursery in Robertson.
This is a time for tenacity as we brace for the new normal. Stay smart, stay safe, stay well and when the quarantine is over, hopefully by end April, spend as much time as you can in nature, celebrate life, family and friends and keep the faith. Let me know how you’re doing via a comment at the end of this post – I’d love to hear from you. Until next time, keep your chin up.