Miss Knitwear and a Goat Called Allen

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My favourite item in the Miss Knitwear range, the grey shawl with feathers.

Once upon a time there was a goat called Allen and a girl called Candice. Allen lived in the Karoo which is a sensible place for a goat. Candice lived in Gardens which is a sensible place for a girl. Allen and Candice knew a secret not many South Africans, but several overseas visitors do: that his family of Angoras produce 75% of the entire planet’s mohair, and that this mohair – like most things to come out of the Karoo – is exceptionally beautiful and of an extremely high quality. So beautiful and so high that busloads of Germans and Americans and Brits flock to our shops every year and go suki la la and spend gazillions of monies on items which – compared to other parts of the world – are inexpensive, original and quite incomparably lovely.

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Allen (right).

And Allen and Candice think it’s a shame that the whole world knows of this thing and walks around Boston and Schleswig-Holstein wearing South African mohair while South Africans wear Foschini (no offence to this chain, but really). And it’s silly that we don’t know about this magnificent product right on our doorstep and support small businesses and the people who devote their lives to putting South Africa and its magic on the map. I met Candice at a dinner party a few years ago and loved two things about her: the fact that she runs marathons for fun and the magnificent, diaphanous scarf that floated about her shoulders like a rain cloud on a koppie. And I was astonished to hear she’d made it herself and that this, in fact, was her business.

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Candice Johnson, runner of marathons and founder of Miss Knitwear.

Between her and her friend, Allen (and some of his friends), some of the prettiest and most delicate mohair products you’ve ever seen are produced and sold at selected stores around the country and online, and I think we need to familiarise ourselves with who is doing what down here and start making a real effort to support local businesses. It’s not easy competing with the big clothing corporations, and kudos to the ones with the courage to spot a gap in the market, venture out alone and do their own thing. I’ve been coveting Candice’s knitwear since I saw it, and I was excited beyond when she brought me a big box of woven beautifulness in shades of winter and told me to choose what I liked.

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The reversible animal print scarves look amazing with jeans and/or a leather jacket.

Candice’s products are made from kid mohair or baby mohair which is shorn from the fleece of a young Angora goat. Even though it is the softest and finest kind, it is in fact stronger and warmer than wool and will keep you cosy as anything when the weather turns cool. It’s lightweight, comfy, doesn’t itch, is the most durable of all animal fibres and won’t shrink which makes it easy to wash.

My favourites in her range are the ones which incorporate ostrich feathers (oh, another fact: every year South Africa exports a ton of feathers to Rio for the carnival. Just read that again: a ton. Do you know how little a feather weighs? Shem that they can’t even come up with their own). Mohair and ostrich feathers go together, in Candice’s words, ‘like cream and jam’. Clotted cream and gooseberry jam plunked on top of a hot, buttery scone fresh out of Karoo farm oven. There is nothing like a feather to make you feel like Edith Piaf in a Paris nightclub having no regrets, even if it’s just a Monday and you’re headed for the Spur.

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Totally how you should go to the Spur.

So, a shout out to Candice, Edith and all the people in this world who are brave enough to be artists and creators and do something unique and original with their lives. And of course a shout out to Allen who, along with his sexy goat friends, has given us just one more reason to be proudly South African.

For more info on these fabulous things and how to find them look here. The website will help you locate stores in your area and give you info on prices. It was important to Candice, an animal lover, that my readers understand wool from Angora goats is very different to wool from Angora rabbits. While Angora rabbits are plucked, Allen simply gets a haircut. Which, in the Karoo summer, he adores.

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The charcoal shawl with feathers. How, just, gorgeous.

Why Kendall Jenner and I Are Actually Twins

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Kendall (left) and I in our new Daniel Wellington watches with matching cuffs. We like to wear the same.

So the other day this weird but not totally surprising thing happened. There I was at Checkers standing in front of the poultry section trying to find the least sorry-looking chicken breasts to grill in a dry, unappetising way for supper because #fatgirl and also #fatbastard and this woman comes up to me and says, ‘Excuse me… I’m sorry to interrupt, but are you Kendall Jenner?’ And it’s remarkable because even though I’m not actually Kendall Jenner I find that lately the similarity between us is becoming uncanny and something one can’t deny unless one is seriously impaired.

There are just so many things we have in common, Kendall and I. We both drive a black car and also she spends much of her time sadly picking at bits of lettuce in plastic containers and complaining about things like how busy she is and how much the paparazzi is hounding her. Which, if you’ll ask my husband, is very much like the way I spend most of my days except for the paparazzi part. Definitely I will concede that she is possibly more famous than me even though just this morning at the meeting to discuss outfits for the Grade 7 fashion show one of the moms said, ‘maybe you can write about it on your blog ha ha’ indicating to me that she knows of the blog and also that I write it. I know that Kendall gets comments like this all the time. It’s exhausting for famous and semi-famous people.

The actual truth of me is that I pay the DSTV people nearly R800 a month just so that I can watch the Kardashians being on holiday in Maui laughing and having the best time ever until ones pushes the other one overboard on a yacht causing her to lose a ginormous diamond earring the size of a ham hock and yet she manages to be sad for only one episode. They are very zen, those girls, and I admire that about them. If it was me, even though mine are cubic zirconias, I can guarantee that whomever pushed me like that and made one of my favourite earrings fall out would hear about it every day for the rest of their natural life. So it is literally the only show I watch since the cooking shows make me hungry and I can’t follow the news and all those words.

And I watch the show because it inspires me. If Khloe can get that thin in revenge against Lamar Odom (we all know the sorry details of what happened, no need to repeat it here) who am I to whine about having one boiled egg for breakfast? No-one. I am no-one. She is my inspiration, Khloe Kardashian. And their teeth… I think I find their teeth the most inspiring thing of all. With teeth so white and perfect how can you have one bad day in your life? The second I got a summons in the post saying chances are fair to middling that I’ll be going to jail for unpaid parking fines I would just whip out my compact and look long and hard at my teeth. Jail, schmail. Bring it.

Also, and this is incidental but I’ll mention it in passing, Kendall Jenner and I have the same watch. Just look at the pictures closely and you’ll see it’s true. Identical. She was also (like me) asked to wear it and in very laissez faire fashion kept her shirt unbuttoned to her navel. Because whyfor must she waste her time with buttons? She has black cars to drive and salads to eat. So next time you see me purchasing a package of Country Pride and wonder to yourself, is that her? Is that really her? wonder no more.

(If you also want to be mistaken for a celeb at Checkers have a look here. If you choose to purchase one of their seriously gorgeous watches online and put in the code DISCOPANTS (which is me, not Kendall) the Daniel Wellington people will give you a 15% discount up until December. Kendall and I love ours).

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Kendall and I hanging at the, uh, L.A. Festival in L.A.

Road trips and Remembered Things

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Schoone Oordt boutique hotel in Swellendam. The grandest old lady in the Overberg.

As we had been looking forward to our weekend away at beautiful Schoone Oordt boutique hotel in Swellendam for weeks, and also because we are a real-life family and not a TV show, the first thing we did that happy morning was have a huge fight. Not to mention names nor blame anyone, but the fight was around the fact that one member of our family (hint: it’s a man) decided he absolutely had to go to gym before we left. In his defence, he based his insistence on the truism that when we go away anywhere, even for a day, it takes me about 7,5 hours to pack and get ready. He (rightly) reasoned that since a gym session takes roughly an hour he’d be home with 6,5 hours to throw his clothes in a rucksack and pace while the three girls in the family ran around shrieking like panicked banshees.

Only, that morning – fueled by a determination to get on the road early and a hefty dose of righteous indignation (something we women get down to a fine art) – I somehow managed to be ready quite quickly, and it was my turn to pace and simmer and still be hotly simmering when he appeared, sweatily, at the front door, pumping with endorphins and properly pleased with himself and the world. Needless to say, the reception he got wasn’t warm. And even though he took his usual 9 seconds to shower, throw on a short pant and get himself behind the wheel, the rest of the family was of a mind to be Still Be Cross and the atmosphere in the car as we took off down the road was like the coldest night ever recorded in Novo Sebirsk.

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We’d probably have been less grumpy with each other if we’d known that at this hotel fairies come into your room and light a fire while you’re having supper. Then again, maybe not.

It took us all the way to the N2 outside Somerset West, with several men trying to shove straw hats and cell phone chargers at us through the window, for anyone to speak to anyone else and also that didn’t go well because the first topic raised was whether or not we were going to stop at the Wimpy for breakfast. For me, and I think most South Africans, the fact that a place serves just about the worst food anyone’s ever eaten is no reason at all not to eat there. I suppose it’s a nostalgia thing, but a road trip is just not right without a portion of factory-cut chips and that very cheap tomato sauce that comes in a squeezy bottle. My husband, on the other hand, doesn’t share our enthusiasm and insists his cup of coffee should actually have coffee in it, so, we told him he could have cashew nuts in the car and that we’d see him in half an hour.

Happily for everyone, things started to improve after we’d eaten (there is something undeniably cheery about those red booths), and by the time we hit Sir Lowry’s Pass we were back to our normal selves. Also, every time I go over Sir Lowry’s Pass I remember the day, many years ago, my parents were driving home from Bonnievale and the brakes on my dad’s old Mercedes Benz failed. I imagine the fear he must have felt as he pumped the pedal and the car didn’t slow down but instead gathered momentum on that steep downward turn and the memory makes my eyes prickle because I love that man more than the world. Using the handbrake and carefully gearing down he managed to get them to the bottom safely, both shaky and white as sheets. And I’m grateful when I travel that stretch of road that they were lucky that day.

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The rugged mountains of the magnificent Tradouw Pass (‘Women’s Path’ in Khoi)  which joins the towns of Swellendam and Barrydale.

And this is how life is. One minute you can be safe in your car on a soggy Thursday, overtaking a truck and Johnny Clegg saying goodbye to December African Rain and the next moment everything can change. As we emerged from the clouds and dipped down towards Botrivier, the sun came out and lit up yellow, sheep-studded grasslands. I think only in South Africa are the ribbons of road this long and this desolate. Past the pink, flower-strewn vistas of the Tradouw Pass I remembered another thing: that the last time I traveled this road was in the back of a Volksie bus driven by the boyfriend of my oldest friend. He died of cancer less than a month ago. Road trips make you think about all kinds of things.

As we pulled into the town of Swellendam the rain had started up again. Kind people from the hotel appeared with large umbrellas which they held over our heads as we hurried to our room. That’s the kind of place Schoone Oordt is, big on attention to detail and the sorts of little touches that make everything better. The bathroom floor is heated (which really, really makes a difference), the bath salts have tiny, fragrant rose petals that make you feel like a bathing princess and while you’re having supper in front of a friendly fire some wonderful fairies sneak into your room and place hot water bottles in your bed. It was only the next morning, which opened bright and inviting, that we realised how pretty this old building actually is, its dining area opening onto a lush expanse of lawn which sweeps down to a blue and sparkling pool.

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Our daughters were partial to the miniature dressing-gowns (a very thoughtful touch) and quickly discovered a taste for Malawian mocktails by the pool.

That afternoon, while the spring sun played dodgems, I found a pool lounger which offered just the right amount of shade for reading and rays for warming and was aware of a feeling of deep contentment as my husband and children enjoyed a game of hide-and-seek amongst the guava trees and I dipped in and out of a book which wasn’t good enough to hold my attention. And it was one of those moments in life where all aggravation is temporarily stalled and you can’t remember one annoying thing about the world which, for a time, has become the sound of your children laughing and clouds gathering and dissipating and an awareness that, at that exact moment in time, there is nothing you need and nowhere you would rather be.

For the next 48 hours we drank tea, took a walk, dozed, played scrabble, shared bottles of very good wine and had a hard time choosing between the delicious items on Schoone Oordt’s menu. My personal favourite was the rump, tasty and done to perfection, served with stywe pap and a smoky smoor, but the pork loin with sweet cabbage and green beans got a big thumbs up from everyone too. On our second evening we were getting hungry but weren’t quite ready to leave the fireplace or our Scrabble board (and were sipping a mighty fine bottle of red and also I was winning) so we ordered a cheese platter to share. A cheese platter is always a happy moment, but this one was a thing of rare beauty with warm, handmade biscuits and a homemade tomato relish off-setting a generous serving of some seriously delicious Overberg cheeses.

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Breakfast in the sunny dining-room is a deeply civilised affair. That morning, a spiced poached pear with Greek yoghurt and homemade granola was the precursor to a splendid stack of black mushrooms, crispy bacon and perfectly poached eggs.

I was a bit bleak about leaving the next day – there is something deeply wonderful about arriving at the pool and within seconds being met with fluffy towels and the offer of a cocktail – but we were due in Barrydale at the Unplugged 62 music festival. Honestly, I was a little trepidatious about attending this event as camping and roughing it are not really for me, but I needn’t have worried because this was glamping at its finest – a comfy double bed with extra pillows, thick blankies to keep out the Karoo chill and – wait for this – while we were stomping in the dust some good and kind people snuck hot water bottles into our beds. This seems to be a tradition around these parts, and it’s a very good one. Also, it’s not quite what you’d expect in a campsite, but the Cherry Glamping people know a thing or two about creature comforts. They also provided bottles of water since the (a-hem) dancing builds up quite a thirst, and early next morning a kind man was up bright and early making tea and coffee and homemade rusks for whomever was in need of sustenance.

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The kind of ‘camping’ I like to do. Please note the Nguni rug and the extra blankies and water. There were also comfy camping chairs set up outside and little lamps to guide us home.

The festival turned out to be one of the nicest I’ve attended, probably because it’s smaller than the others and therefore less hectic. You know, for us older people. And the music line-up was impressive. I’d kind of expected a few local farmers with guitars, but my 12-year-old daughter’s eyes were like saucers when one of her favourite bands, Slow Jack, kicked off with their hit single, Love to Dream. It’s the first time we’ve taken our girls to a live music event and it was really fun being there with them, dancing up a storm on the haybales. The vibe was great, with everyone in the mood for letting their hair down and I remembered what I love about music festivals – how happy and chilled-out everyone is, and how many friendly, cool people exist in the world. And there something wonderful and uniquely life-affirming about dancing like lunatics under a star-studded Karoo night sky.

It was way past our usual bedtime when made our way across the dewy veld to our waiting tent, giggling like teenagers as we looked for the zip in the dark and tried not to wake our sleeping kids. The truth about this thing called life is that you discover, at some point or another, that whichever way it unfolds it is seldom the deal you expected, and being a grown-up can be harder at times than you ever imagined possible. Which is why it’s so necessary to grab hold of the moments that retain beauty and magic. None of us knows how much time we’ve been allocated on this planet. As I get older I begin to realise that the here and now is the only thing that really matters. Tomorrow it could all look very different, so we can’t take anything for granted. We must hug our children, appreciate our friends and notice the kindness and abundance that exists all around us if we choose to see it. And most of all, we must dance like lunatics as often as we possibly can.

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Karoo cocktails and happiness.

One Very Fabulous Watch

 

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The Dapper Sheffield. Just saying that makes me feel fancy.

I’ve been wanting to resurrect Fabulous Things for some time because, well, I keep finding fabulous things which deserve a mention, and I’d like to start writing shorter blogs more regularly instead of just the long, serious ones that make people cross with me. So, when a very nice man with an extremely suave-sounding name sent me an email asking if I’d like to take a look at his website and choose any watch I like it took me about 3,7 seconds to reply, well, yes, I rather would.

In truth, I’ve always been a One Watch Woman. I’ve been wearing my watch for about 10 years and the thought of replacing it was far from my mind. I also suffer from pathological indecisiveness, and the idea of having to choose another made me need Rescue Remedy, but I pulled myself together and clicked on the Daniel Wellington website.

Their watches are really pretty. Really pretty. They’re classic, stylish and trendy all at the same time, and nice enough to make me feel it was warranted to cheat on Watch #1 – if I apologised and explained the situation. Honestly, I liked them all, but my favourite was one in rose gold with blue hands and the date called the Dapper Sheffield which is just one of the prettiest watches I’ve ever seen. The date is a good feature for me because I am regularly unsure of what month, never mind what day it is. They’re also fairly big which makes them modern and a little bit edgy.

And what’s really cool is that you get an extra strap thrown in for nought ront so you can shake things up a bit and kind of wear a different watch every day. I chose one with jaunty nautical stripes. You know, for sunset cruises on yachts and… yachts. But there are lots of different designs and straps to choose from, and even though I’m fussy and really conservative when it comes to accessories there wasn’t one combo I didn’t find lovely.

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Jaunty nautical strap. Just add yacht.

Good watches are like good shoes. You just feel more fabulous wearing them. And happily, for those keen on some extra fabulosity, the nice Daniel Wellington man with the suave name is offering my readers a discount of 15% (which actually isn’t shabby) if you buy online and quote this code: discoDW (because… disco). Then they’ll know I sent you and everyone will be pleased. If any of you decide to buy one, let me know so we can be watch twins. And if you’re also a One Watch Woman, they make for really superb gifts.

Raddest Plakkies in the Universe

The gold ones for girls, but they come in lots of styles and colours.
The gold ones for girls, but they come in lots of styles and colours.

If we South Africans had a national shoe it would, without contest, be the plakkie (or the slip slop or the flip flop – whichever word you prefer) – they’re cool, comfy, easy-to-wear and when you buy the larny metallic ones you can take them straight from the beach to the bar and still look fabulous. And, to this end, my sweet and gorgeous friend, Mike Cloete, is making plakkies that are, truly, very awesome to wear. And I know because he gave me a pair which I wear ALL THE TIME. Not only are they much (much) cheaper than a certain brand which begins with a ‘huh’, they’re excellent quality, very pretty, and best of all – they’re made in SA.

80% of all Beach Religion footwear is locally produced, which means Mike’s company is creating jobs for a lot of people, developing and utilising local skills, and wouldn’t you know, he’s just sent a consignment of shoes to Italy – land of Prada, Dolce and Gabbana and all manner of fabulous footwear – which means his shoes are bladdy well made. He’s also got a very fun, interactive thing going where you can design your own slip slop before each season, but mostly I just think it’s cool when quality stuff is made down here, and supporting local business helps us all. For info on how to purchase the raddest plakkies in the universe check out http://www.beachreligion.com. (And you don’t want to not be rad).

Mikey and his beautiful boys, Jacques and Dominic.
Mikey and his beautiful boys, Jacques and Dominic.

Steal His Photograph!

You know you have your finger on the pulse of the city not at all when it takes a Danish friend who has been in town for all of five minutes to tell you about one of the coolest endeavours Cape Town has ever been involved with. Creative Mornings (http://creativemornings.com) is part of a programme happening across the globe where a bunch of interesting cities from Berlin to Melbourne to San Francisco host a morning talk on the same day, in the same time slot covering a range of design/innovation/art/living in the world-related topics.

Last month’s theme, for example, was bravery, and the speaker was a young guy who decided to raise money by travelling alone through the Amazon jungle and ended up getting shot and surviving through the kindness of strangers. While not too many of us will kayak through a jungle, the point of the talk was human efficacy – how we must remember to be mindful; to ask questions; to think for ourselves; to say no when we don’t agree with what we’re being told.

Because bravery and courage are resources we need every day in a world which can be pretty hostile and more than a little bit scary. And, we tend to forget that one human being can, in fact, make a pretty big difference if we put our minds to it. It was a cool talk, and it’s especially applicable to anyone who has decided to take a path slightly less travelled, and use their skills and gifts and creativity to forge their own way in the world. Which isn’t always easy.

After the talk a bunch of us went up the road to a coffee shop in Rose Street, including a Finnish guy called Lukas Renlund who is totally going out on a limb by doing something incredibly interesting with social media. Lukas is a very successful fashion photographer (though that title doesn’t do his art justice) in Copenhagen who wanted to find ways of getting his work noticed by a wider audience. So, he decided to start a project called ‘Steal My Photograph’ where he travels to cities like London and Barcelona and encourages people to literally steal his art in exchange for the person in question taking a pic of where the artwork is hanging in their homes and posting it on his Facebook page.

And while it might seem mad – giving art away – this is how social media has changed the way we think, act and market ourselves. It’s not about thinking out of the box – there is simply no box anymore. Anyway, his work is amazing, and I loved the energy and enthusiasm with which he approaches his craft – and life. The world is wide open and, particularly here where the creative and entrepreneurial spirit is so strong, anything is possible.

It was really cool to hear all these Scandinavians raving about how innovative South Africans are; how cutting-edge our design is and how impressed they are by the way we think. Who knew? If you’re in town and you can, get to Creative Mornings. It’s a very worthwhile way of spending a few hours on a Friday. You’ll learn stuff, be inspired and are sure to make at least one interesting connection over coffee afterwards. Here are the videos Lukas made of ‘Steal My Photograph’ in Barcelona and Copenhagen. He has the good sense to be staying in Cape Town for a while. Check out his Facebook page for info on how to steal his photograph: https://www.facebook.com/Lukas.Renlund.Photographer

The LOVE RSA range from Mr Price Home

Seriously, how fun?
Seriously, how fun?

I think this is just the coolest range of stuff ever to be produced down here, and sold at a totally affordable price. It’s colourful and ironic and iconographic, and you can’t feel miserable when you walk into a room and see this gold-toothed guy with fabulous hair hanging out on your couch. It’s also a reminder to embrace the madness of life down here and not take things too seriously. We’re all a bit bemal, and that’s okay. There are worse things to be, like boring. I got this one at Canal Walk, and I keep meaning to go and get more.