(16th July - 30th October, 2009)



August 12th - September 3rd:- Spain, France & return to the UK ::

 Aug 12th/13th




August 12 Arrived at Santander at 6 p.m. and drove through Cantabria, then EUSKADI - the Basque country - by-passing Bilbao and San Sebastian, crossing the French border and stopping for the night at the elegant Les Jardins de Bakea, at Biriatou; we enjoyed a superb dinner (cold lobster bisque, duck, poached pears....accompanied by a delicate local white wine) on the terrace , sitting under a London Plane tree ( reminding me of similar evenings under Pat Griffith's sycamore (as the tree is called in USA) at Carpinteria, California. After dinner we walked downhill to the river and back, a good half-hour walk in the moonlight.


 Aug 13th - 19th




































August 13 - 15 An easy drive, by passing Biarritz and Bayonne, then heading south, stopping for a salad lunch at La Bastide. We called in at Mirepoix, for a walk through the medieval centre, and to collect supplies, then the last 10 kms to John's house in Lafage. I had expected a simple country cottage, but John - and his French architect - have done a magical transformation of an old stone house, all the floors, furniture and fittings are first-class - up to Appelsdrift standards, I thought. On three floors, the house has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and plenty of living space, most comfortable.

Both drives offered pleasing scenery, including patches of primary woodland, I was constantly engaged in watching buildings, fields and people, with John providing an insightful commentary. John took me to the dramatically sited C12 rock church - Eglise Rupestie Carolingienne - at Vals, a short drive.


I have been troubled by a nagging cough and sore throat, so John sensibly suggested that I take it easy for a day or two, and I can think of few places where it is so comforting and delightful to "take it easy". As well as John, I have the company of the two friendly cats, Tobermory and Shimbleshanks (so named by John's daughter Lucy, after T.S.Eliot's Cats.)

I hope that my next despatch will be more interesting than an account of convalescence in La France Profunde. I have been reading about the C13 & C14 heretics, the Cathars, for this was their stamping ground. According to Voltaire - and I heartily endorse his judgment - " it is the summit of brutal and absurd barbarity to maintain, through informers and torturers, the religion of a God who died at the hands of his executioners."

I have also been re-reading John's book, Students and Workers, about the French student revolts of 1968. I had read this when John sent me a copy in 1969, but I had forgotten much.

August 15. After dinner, it being light until well after 9 p.m. we took a walk through the village (hamlet? about 25 households),with John providing succinct and incisive commentaries on the inhabitants, reminding me of Aubrey's "Brief Lives". There are a few other "incomers", including one very English family, who had built an English bungalow, put up an English name plate ("BOOTH") and cultivated an English garden, complete with wire fence. However, the Booths had, unlike some of their compatriots, learnt a little French.

August 16. I was feeling much better, John offered me a difficult choice for our day's excursion - the medieval town of Carcaconnes, or driving around the Pyrénées.

I opted for the Pyrénées, and we had a great day, driving mainly on narrow "blue roads" (from William Least Heat Moon's classic book, Blue Highways), passing large fields of bright sunflowers, deep gorges, woodlands (with many eager hunters searching for deer or wild pig), families relaxing at lakes (it was a Sunday) and castles : we saw (too steep for me to climb up) Chateau de Montsegur and visited Chateau de Puivert, both dramatically situated on hilltops. We had lunch at Roquefixait, a quintessential French village, with a simple but superb cafe, where the proprietors served us the most delicious lunch, salad, duck, peas in a tasty sauce, apple tart: I had Vin du Pays, blanc, John, as he was driving, stuck to water. We shared our table with friendly (French) tourists.


Relaxing at home that evening, I saw about 25 sturdy young men, many of them of colour, run briskly past: the French Foreign Legion has a post nearby. .

August 17. Market Day at Mirepoix, 10kms away. We arrived early, to secure parking, and wandered around enjoying the lively scene. John knew several of the sellers, one of whom, a black Frenchman, ran the bookshop with his white wife. He was very knowledgeable, helping me to select the best book on the Cathars. There were a few genuine craftsmen, but also much manufactured kitsch. However, we did see - and bought - excellent local cheeses, meat, fruit and vegetables. With its well preserved medieval centre, Mirepoix is a popular tourist location and many Brits have holiday homes in the vicinity. .

One of this area's famous dishes is Cassoulet; remembering that Bernard had made this dish, I expressed a hope that we would find a really outstanding cassoulet - John drove us, about half an hour, that evening , to the hamlet of La Bastide d'Anjou, where Le Hospitalier L'Atienne served - according to John's French friends - a truly authentic dish. It was a memorable evening, sitting out in the twilight in the garden, and savouring this great dish - our earthenware pot had enough food for six people. The attractive young - and very professional - waitress recommended a Corbieres (Charles Cros 2005), which went down very well. Once again, I noticed how well behaved were the children.

August 18. This has been a good visit, John and I were glad of the opportunity to get to know each other again. I told John that he differed from me in at least two respects: although he is sociable and engages easily with people, he does not mind his solitary life, he is more self-contained than I am. I depend on my friends, they are my oxygen. Second, John is much more of an intellectual, always asking good hard questions, pondering all the "Whys", whereas by now I ponder little, and tend to enjoy whatever each day offers.

John drove me to Castelnaudary, to catch the direct 10:32 train to Paris Austerlitz, a comfortable seven hour journey. Mary Dyson was at the station to meet me, together with her other guest, Annette Currie-Wood, whose mother-in-law had been a friend of my mother in Durban in the 1940s.

I first met Mary in Nairobi in 1980, when she was with the World Bank, and we worked together on a resettlement project. She now lives in Paris; Jean, her French husband was unfortunately away that day. Mary's daughter Sara, her two children and Alex her husband called in to greet me; I had last seen them all at the end of 2007, when they visited me Fish Hoek. After dinner, we set out, at 10 p.m. for a stroll, which turned out to be a brisk two hour walk, stopping for an upscale ice-cream at a cafe by the Seine, near Notre Dame. It was such a pleasure to see so many folk, mostly young, talking, laughing and dining at outside cafes. When we crossed the Pont des Artes, scores of parties were going on, umpteen bottles of wine in evidence, but no drunkenness, no lager louts. I also appreciated the safety of the streets, although Mary (who gave Annette and me a bright historical/sociological commentary along our route) did say that she had avoided some dicey areas.


 Aug 19 - Sept 3


























































































































August 19. By metro to Gare du Nord for the Eurostar (2 & 1/4 hours) to London, glad to be "home" again.

August 20. 133 bus to the huge Liverpool Street station, then train (one hour) to Colchester in Essex to meet Gilian and Michael Vernon, whom I had met only once before, in 1992, with Bernard. Gilian is the niece and executor of her uncle, Peter Greensmith, who was our good friend in Nairobi. We learnt that Peter was one of the two great tropical horticulturalists, the other being Roberto Burley Marx of Brazil. Peter was well known for his imaginative and daring experiments with bougainvillea. Gilian was mainly responsible for ensuring that Wasaa, Peter's magnificent legacy, his 60 acres of gardens and fields, at Langata, near the Nairobi National Park, survived: it was taken over by IUCN (The International Union for the Conservation of Nature) as their regional headquarters. Bernard and I often enjoyed a weekend at luxurious Wasaa, as "R & R" from our more spartan fieldwork conditions. We had a good lunch and lively conversation.

August 21. Another day outing, a 1 & 3/4 hour train journey to Bournemouth, to see David Brodie and his sister Ravena Berlowitz, whom we had met in Bulawayo in 1956. David had flown in from San Luis Obispo, California, while Ravena lives in Bournemouth. Again, an excellent lunch and plenty of catching up on each other's lives, not having seen each other for three years.

August 22. Bus (59 & 38 ) to Hackney to see Anne-Marie Shawe and her father, who was visiting from York. A-M had been administrator for the University of California Education Abroad Programme in London, when I was director, 1984/86. We saw War Horse, a brilliant production, set in World War 1, with participation of the Handspring Puppet Company: this is run by two imaginative men who live in Kalk Bay, one mile away from Fish Hoek.

That evening I invited my great-nephew Philip (niece Deirdre's eldest son), his wife Inez and their 14 year old daughter Zoe to dinner at my neighbourhood restaurant, Amici. Philip. who lives in Dundee, was in London to participate in a strange project, dreamt up by the sculptor Andrew Gormsley (The Angel of the North, at Newcastle). The new project started in early July, involves 2,400 men and women who each spend an hour on top of a platform in Trafalgar Square, where they can do pretty much what they like. It seemed weird to me, but it did give me a chance to see Philip and his family, whom I had not seen for many years. Bernard and I had invited Philip and his younger brother Steven (then aged 15 and 13) to Kenya in 1974, when we were doing fieldwork, a memorable time for all of us. As usual at Amici, everything was excellent, but the portions are so large that we ended up with doggy bags.

Sunday, August 23. Richard Dyson and his life companion David Budworth collected me at 1 p.m., to take me to their home for lunch. Mary Dyson (see August 18) had asked us to meet Richard in 1984, when he was at Sherborne school, and we were living in Sherborne. R & D, are both financial journalists, both in their 30s. On the way to their home we walked past the Oval cricket ground, where the final test of England vs Australia was playing to a 20,000 crowd, with another 10,000 watching the game on large scale TV in Regent's Park (later that day, England beat Australia, to "win the Ashes", to great celebrations).

It was a day of unusual heat, we sat in the garden, enjoying Fish Hoek Chenin Blanc, and I was glad to find a shady spot under a big fuchsia bush. Great tits and green finches came, continuously, to the bird feeder; one wall was covered with tomato and chille plants. Richard proudly showed me his beehive (40,000 bees, he said, were resident). He had to take special precautions, partly closing the entrance, to get rid of the mites.

David had made Dorowat, a spicy, delicious Ethiopian dish - new to me. They had got the recipe from Sara, their cousin (see August 18) who is half Ethiopian). Boschendal Sauv. Blanc accompanied this very nicely. Richard, confessing to a love of jelly, produced a fine plum jelly, reminding me of my boyhood when jellies were one of my favourite dishes. .

R & D kindly walked me back so I could show them my borrowed flat. When they left, they thanked me "for finding the time to see us". But I wanted to thank them: with their lively talk, and loving relationship, they reminded me, perhaps, of Bernard and me, fifty years ago. Goodness, I thought, I am 50 years older than R & D, but it does not seem to matter. I remembered, by contrast, how important minor age gaps were when I was young. At 13, my eldest brother Guy would have been 18 (that was the last time I saw Guy) and he and his pals lived in a different world from mine . .

August 24. I am still troubled by a persistent cough, so I reluctantly cancelled my proposed visit to Brighton, to see Brian Taylor (Rhodes University 1946) and his wife Doreen. Instead, I went to a walk-in clinic and was seen by Dr Kakad, a kindly, very professional British Asian, who examined me thoroughly and prescribed antibiotics. When I told him that I would be on the road for a further two months, he gave me a double supply, "just in case"; being over 60 years of age, they were free, as was the consultation. At Anne Marie's suggestion, I did buy "Replete", which ensures that the intestinal flora are not lost.

August 25. This is my usual daily routine. First thing is a quick cup of Rooibos tea; I bring my own supply, having found that some of the "Red Bush" tea sold overseas is a far cry from the genuine product. .

Instead of my walk on Fish Hoek beach, I walked down Black Prince Road to the Thames, then followed the riverside walkway, glancing at the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben across the River, to Westminster Bridge, where I turn around. Even at 7 a.m, this walkway is busy with walkers and many cyclists, whose number has grown, I think, even from last year. On my way back I collect The Guardian from the friendly Indian couple who run the neighbourhood shop, and who remembered me from previous visits. The whole walk takes an hour, the same time as my beach walk. Time for the simple back exercises which Karyn, my helpful physio-therapist, prescribed, a shower and breakfast.

This day was my last "in-and-out of London day trips", this time to Hastings to see Gail Povey, whe widow of John Povey, whom we first met more than forty years ago. John was in the Department of English at UCLA, he also edited the quarterly journal African Arts, and was at one time head of the African Studies Program at UCLA. Above all John was a great companion, with a superb wit and wide ranging interests. Bernard and I spent many happy hours at the Malibu hillside home of John and Gail.

Gail was visiting (from Wisconsin, where she now lives) a friend, Betty Taylor, who drove us - it was a beautiful clear and warm day - through the beguiling East Sussex countryside, to Berwick, where we sat in the extensive and colourful garden of The Cricketers' Arms (established 1790), relishing a pub lunch, for me, mackerel pate, salad, and a pint of Harvey's Sussex best bitter - in a proper mug, with a handle -nogal. (Afrikaans, indeed). .

After lunch to see the point of our excursion, the murals, painted by Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, in 1943 in the C13 church of St.Michael and All Angels, at Berwick. The small church is an architectural gem, and the murals are well preserved, very much worth our visit - biblical scenes, with characters in modern dress.

Had a cup of tea in Betty's stunning (both for location and contents) home, a train to Waterloo East and I was home by 7.30 p.m. No TV, not that I miss it at my borrowed flat - so I listened on Radio 3 to part of the Proms, and finished reading a gripping novel, Cynthia Ozich's The Bear Boy, from which I copied down this Arab proverb:

a wise man speaks of ideas,
a middling man of action
a fool of persons.

(this reminded me of what I wrote above about one of the differences between John Gretton and me).

dwb etc

August 26 /27. My niece Judy, who visiting her son and daughter, and their families, spent these two days with me. To celebrate our meeting, I took Judy to "5th View", a smart cafe on the fifth floor of Waterstone's bookshop, in Jermyn Street, near Piccadilly. David Budworth (see August 23) had introduced me to this pleasant place last year. We ordered a bottle of sparkling wine, but through a misunderstanding we were served real champagne - at no extra cost (thanks to Judy’s firmness), a good beginning for our reunion. That evening we had a good dinner (a special for £6,95, between 6 & 8 p.m.) at Thai Ming, in Windmill Street, just around the corner from my borrowed flat. The following morning Judy and I had a long walk, along the Thames as far as Waterloo Bridge. .

On August 27, we went to a moving celebration of the life of Mike Warren, who had died in a tragic BASE jump accident in Norway, two weeks previously. Mike was Judy's great-nephew; his grandmother, Avanel, (known as Puck) was sister to Jil, Judy's mother. I had not met Mike, but I knew Jil and Puck well. Mike, aged 33, had joined the British army after a troubled boyhood in South Africa, and three years ago had been top of his class at Sandhurst when he was commissioned. Mike was obviously a daredevil, having made over 500 sky-dives from aircraft, and also 8 BASE jumps, which involve jumping from a height, with special "wings", opening the parachute during descent. On his final jump, as reported by his uncle, John Grimes, in commenting on a video of Base jumps, .

"The road towards the end of the clip that the guys 'fly' over is where Mike was killed. He tried to do that road but apparently didn't have enough speed or height. It appears that he hit the terrain just on the other side of the road. Great pity because I gather he almost made it. Just a little more height would have taken him over the cliff the road is built on."

BASE is an acronym for "Buildings, Antennae, Signage, Earth", I know no more about these jumps. .

The celebration was held at a larney (SA slang - "posh") hotel, the Montague Gardens, near Russell Square, at midday. It was informal with one most moving speech, by Andy, a bluff Yorkshireman, who had served in Iraq in Mike's unit.

Andy described Mike as "the most chilled-out officer, because he had come through the ranks,and he understood privates..he was the most unflappable, the friendliest.. the lads loved him.And," Andy remarked, "Mike smoked roll-ups".

I spoke to Mike's brothers Ray and David, also to John Grimes, who is the pilot for the royal family in Dubai, and Gigi, his wife, a medical consultant in emergency medicine, in Hampshire. A bonus for me was again meeting Richard Brady (a cousin of Mike), who's grandfather, Jock Barnes, was the brother of Jil and Puck. I had met Richard two years previously at his parents' home at Cape St.Francis in the Eastern Region of South Africa. Richard, aged 26, "came out" as a gay man two years ago, is now living and thriving as an IT consultant in London. I much enjoyed Richard's vitality, exuberance and joy of life. By the time I left, I knew quite a lot about Mike, after speaking to those who knew and loved him, and having seen photographs and a video.


Judy and I returned to the flat for a rest, then Tan, Judy's daughter joined us, having left her two boys, Tai and JJ (8 and 6) in the care of her husband, David. We three went to the Victoria Palace Theatre to see Billy Elliot, the Musical, which I had seen with Gail Povey (see August 25) in 2006, but it caused no pain to see it again, a lively and "feel good" production. .

August 28. By train from Euston to Stockport, to be met by Paul Baxter (see August 23) to spend the long Bank Holiday weekend with him and Pat, a most welcome break for me. I am loving their restful home, sitting looking out over the green lawn, with the plum tree full of fruit, which I have been enjoying both fresh and stewed. Nuthatches come to the feeder, and in the evening they have a regular visitor, a fox. Pat puts much energy, knowledge and time into her garden, I will be content to sit and do very little for a few days. I realise that I have probably been doing too much chasing around, here I can regain my strength and psychic energy.

August 28/31. Relaxing at "101 Moss Lane, Bramhall", the comfortable and most hospitable home of Paul and Pat Baxter. I was glad to do little. Grandsons Mark and Paul Edward came, separately, for meals, with their respective wives Sara and Sarah, the former with their bright 2 & 1/2 year old daughter, Felicity. They (apart from Felicity, of course) are all in their early 30s, and coming to say "hello to David" (it used to be "to say hello to Bernard and David") is a regular, and a pleasant routine. Among the delicious dishes that Pat prepared was a new (to me) herb, samphire, which Paul told me, is mentioned in King Lear.

Pat navigated, Paul driving, along attractive blue roads, many passing under leafy tunnels to a most unusual restaurant, "The Coffee Tavern". Built in 1887 to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria, it was converted to a cafe, then restaurant, after WW1. On entering, I thought I had strayed to a 1950s movie set of rural England, both clientele and decor reinforcing my impression. We had roast beef and Yorkshire pudding (excellent), accompanied by an adequate Californian Merlot. Later that day, Pat gave me a tour of her exquisite garden, explaining how she tries to keep the garden pests - worms, moth, caterpillars, birds - at bay. I admired the laden plum and apple (Bramley and Newton) trees, a brilliant display of dahlias, and the runner beans that we had eaten.

During my stay we watched some TV, were disappointed in two shows: Wuthering Heights was muddled, and Heathcliff was hopelessly miscast. The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency seemed to us very un-African.

September 1/3. Back by fast (two hours) Virgin train to London Euston, to lunch with Kevin Leeman and Graham Hayter at their home in North London; Kevin had even found a bottle of Two Roads, the Flagstone superior Sauvignon Blanc. Although there had been showers earlier, it obligingly cleared so that we had our lunch in the garden, always a treat in Britain - or anywhere.

Not much else to report - tidying up my borrowed and much appreciated Kennington flat, then spending the last night at the Camberwell home of Jean la Fontaine, ready for an early start on Sept 3 for my British Airways flight to Washington DC.

Sept 3. Stayed for last evening, with Jean, who had invited Suzi Hall, architect/sociologist, and her photographer husband for drinks. Suzi's parents, coincidentally, live near me in Fish Hoek, in that big Tuscany style house on the catwalk. Suzi, an architect/sociologist, is completing a Ph.D. dissertation at LSE, a study of street traders on Walworth Road, Camberwell, a very mixed area. I will be seeing Suzi and John and their little boy, Sam, at Christmas time in Fish Hoek. Enjoyed a good roast leg of lamb (which I had requested) also a bottle of Flagstone Dragon Tree wine, which Jean had found on sale at Majestic Wines.

Jean called me early a 6 a.m. to see "her" fox, a vixen which has been visiting Jean's garden for over a year, since she was a cub. The fox was eagerly eating fish scraps just outside the kitchen door, paying no attention to us. A big bonus for me. Then we had time for a 40 minute walk in Burgess Park, before Rudi (a jolly Jamaican driver, recommended by Suzi) called to drive me to the airport.



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