Beleza on Upper Kloof

Beleza interior Love the retro interior. And the outside-y section is great, too.

This morning’s coffee arrangement with my mom was a little bit different because it was preceded by a meeting at Elisabeth’s school where one of the moms has initiated a project whereby available parents have been asked to provide assisted reading to some kids who come from homes where their caregivers don’t/can’t read and are at risk of falling through the cracks of an education system which isn’t really equipped to provide this type of individual attention. And while I like to think of myself as terribly committed to this country, the shameful truth is that I do zip diddly in terms of offering my time/skills/money to any of the many worthwhile causes around while there are so many people who do so much. It’s a very nice idea, this. It’s just 15 minutes per child per week, directly after drop off and, as was explained, this brief time spent alone with an adult is often the only time these kids will get in the week.

Having grown up in a home where I was read to constantly it’s hard to imagine a childhood without books and words. But that’s the reality for a lot of South African children. And it will cost me nothing and is the absolute least I can do given the amazingness of every part of my life in this country, and it’s horrible that I’ve never done anything like this before, and that I’m only doing it because it’s really easy and I know that it will turn out to be at least as rewarding for me – who has no clue, really, about how some people in this country live. So, we will each have a child allocated to us, and once a week we’ll bring books from home or choose them from the school library and read together and learn the words and talk about the stories. And I should do much, much more than this, but it’s something and it’s a start.

On the way to coffee afterwards, my mom – who is awesome with kids, and has offered her time, too – was already planning little treats to bring along for after their session and that’s a nice idea, too. To give your reading buddy a little sticker or a sucker because – and I know this from my own kids – these small tokens celebrating their achievements mean the absolute world to them. By the time the meeting was over we were both hungry, and I remembered seeing a sign at the bottom of Upper Kloof advertising cheapie breakfasts, so that’s where we headed. Turns out the place we’ve been driving past (across from Rafiki’s at the big set of traffic lights) is called Beleza (http://belezarestaurant.co.za), and it’s awesome and I can’t believe I’ve never been there.

Beleza is a café/restaurant/vintage clothes store, and the interior is stylish and retro and one of those Cape Town spots that you walk into and think, sheesh, this city is cool. Since today is such a magnificent day we decided to sit outside and watch the world go by. After a perfectly tasty bacon and eggs breakfast (for R19, if you please) and very good coffee (they won an award in 2011 for best coffee in town, fyi) we browsed around inside, and while I’m not really a big vintage clothing kind of person, they have some nice stuff – sunglasses, accessories and a pair of funky 60s-style sandals I might have bought were they in my size. It’s one of the few vintage stores I’ve been into where I thought, Oh, I’ll be back. And it’s just quite a delightful concept – gathering your girlfriends for a few drinks and bite to eat, and picking up a cute frock or throw or bracelet while you’re at it. And I’m sure it’s fab in the evening, too. So, I’m excited about next Tuesday where I strongly suspect that, while I might be helping a child to read, the one who will be doing the real learning will be me.

The vintage clothing store. They often have sales - check their website for the next one.
The vintage clothing store. They often have sales – check their website for the next one.
As my friend, Stef, says, there is no reason not to be fabulous.
As my friend, Stef, says, there is no reason not to be fabulous.
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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.

The Kiffest Coffee in Cape Town (A New Thing)

So, if your husband – like mine – is straight and over 30 it’s probably not his best to sit and la-la in cafes and coffee shops, awesome as they might be. In fact, sometimes I think if I left my husband to his own devices instead of dragging him by the trouser leg to ‘events’ he’d never leave the house again, bless. So, quite by accident, I’ve embarked on a New Thing. Since my mom is DIVINE beyond and the only time I chat to her is for three seconds when she arrives to babysit and I should have been somewhere ten minutes ago, and as she also has the problem of a husband who is straight and over thirty, we’ve decided to meet for coffee every Tuesday morning. Which is so fab, actually, and so fun.

This Tuesday was our first meeting and we went to one of my favourites, Haas in Rose Street. I hadn’t decided to blog about it yet so I didn’t take any pictures, but here’s their website with loads http://haascollective.com/. It’s completely cool, and the waiters wear top hats and they do this savoury muffin (in truth, the real reason I go there) made with spinach, sweet peppers and melted cheese which they serve warm with home-made jam. It’s so big even I (greedy guts) can only eat half, and so divine you have to stop talking for a while. Haas is also part shop/gallery which sells stylish, rather beautiful artwork and knick knacks. So, it’s really quite win-win. And their coffee, of course, is great.

I read somewhere that they sell this rare, super-expensive coffee made from the poo of some exotic animal which lives in a tree on an island far away. (I’m not sure if they actually serve poo coffee – probably not – but what I have is really good and doesn’t taste anything like that).

Not that I’m a coffee connoisseur by any means. In truth, and if I was left to my own devices and wasn’t afraid of being ridiculed, I wouldn’t buy the Jacobs for a gazillion rand, I’d get that huge tin of Ricoffy white people buy for their maids and be happy as a banana. But since I’m married to a Scandinavian where coffee drinking is something of a religion (and who can blame them – without those hourly pots of jet-fuel-strength brew to keep them buzzing through the interminably long winters there’d be a lot more hara kiri going on, in my opinion), it’s become a bit of an indispensable part of my life. But I’m not going to be all blah-blah-these-coffee-beans-have-a-clean-nose-and-top-notes-of-veldskoen-and-chewing-tobacco, I’m going to talk about how fun it is to sit there and what you can eat and who you’re inclined to see. Because there are so, so many amazing cafes in this town that I just never get the chance to go to.

And we’ll go to fabulous places, and we’ll go to places that are fabulous for different reasons. And I think this new year’s tradition is going to make 2014 quite a fun one. I’m excited. Watch this space!

My new coffee shop buddy, Lorraine Hayden. The kids will not be invited, obz.
My new coffee shop buddy, Lorraine Hayden. And the girls when they were very little.

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.

Don’t speak American when you’re actually from Nelspruit, guy

So, I was at a party a while back and there was this guy chatting to some girls in a lovely American accent. And I thought, it’s so nice, all the multi-culturalism we’re experiencing down here lately, but then later on when he wandered into my periph and I asked him what part of the States he was from, he told me he was born in Nelspruit but that when he left college he lived in Chicago for nine months. Nelspruit? Nine months? Okay, something is very wrong with this picture.

Now, I understand very well the seductiveness of Americana. When I was 10 I regularly had conversations with myself in the mirror in a phony American accent because, in those days, everything American was cool and everything South African was stupid. They had The Cosby Show and CHiPs, we had Trompie and Blitzpatrollie. They had cool presidents and a Star Spangled banner, we had P.W.Botha and Oranje Blanje Blou. It just wasn’t ayoba to be from here. And it was devastating to me that my parents couldn’t see the error of their ways, pack up our belongings and go somewhere fabulous, like Idaho. Because any back-water town in America had to be better than Somerset West.

I also wanted to wear normal clothes to school, go to the prom, be in a sorority (not that I know what that means to this day) and drive at the age of 16. I just knew that in America I would be something. But, happily, I grew up and was lucky enough to travel and while I love the US with a capital ‘l’, and if I had to live anywhere else in the world it would probably be there – I mean, who else puts bacon on a cake? – I’ve also learnt that America is just a place like any other, and while it’s really, really good at marketing itself, real-life Americans are just ordinary people, and for all the hoo-hah surrounding this nation, can be surprisingly conservative and parochial in their thinking.

Which makes me curious about why some of us are so eager to leave our roots behind and take on this identity. Danish actress from the eighties, Brigitte Nielsen, had barely been in Hollywood for five minutes when, in an interview on Danish television, she asked the host to please speak English as she ‘couldn’t remember’ Danish. Huh? Then of course there is Charlize who we can’t get cross with because we love her so much, but must she talk like that all the time? Nicole Kidman still speaks like an Aussie, after all, and everyone understands her perfectly.

I guess, somewhere in our psyche, we’re still a bit shy about coming from a country which institutionalized racism right up to the nineties, and we’ll always have a slight inferiority complex about being on the arse-end of Africa and not having been allowed to buy Levis. But the truth is that lately we’re actually pretty much up there in the stakes of cool. I’d say, since Mandela, Nelspruit might even beat Idaho as a happening place to come from. So, Nelspruit guy, I hope when you’re old like me you’ll see the silliness of pretending to be something you’re not, drop the fake accent and embrace your roots. You’re more interesting than you think.