Village life in Parkhurst

Today I am writing this blog from the airport’s departure lounge. Nearly time to start our trip to France. Yippee! I can already see myself meandering through beautiful, small Luberon villages with my husband, taking a million photos (thank you for digital cameras!) and probably over-eating more often than what is good for me. I will bombard you with photos and stories when I return….

In the meantime to tie you over in case you miss me :-), I’ve decided to share with you my favourite places in another “Parks” village, this time Parkhurst.

You just have to love the history of Parkhurst. It all started when a New York insurance salesman, a Mr Schlesinger, moved to SA and founded the African Realty Trust just after the Anglo-Boer War. His company started buying up small parcels of farmland in Johannesburg and developing them into residential suburbs, including this remote portion of the Braamfontein farm. He started developing the land into 2200 small stands (all about 485 m2) and sold them for £100 each. Then, and this is where the story becomes really interesting, he launched a naming competition to publicise the new suburb.

Until they had a winner, the temporary name "New Parktown" was given to the suburb. With prize money of £100 for the winning entry, it comes as no surprise that they received 11 823 entries from all over the country. Only problem is that 49 people suggested "Parkhurst" and they had to equally divide the prize money! ! To see the list of some of the other names submitted or to read more about this history, click here.

Today, Parkhurst is a lovely neighbourhood with a proper village feel. There is a very active residents' association and it is the kind of urban community where neighbours know each other. If you follow the current news story about the controversial parking scheme (you can view the Carte Blanche story here), you will know about this community spirit. Villagers came out in force to demonstrate against it and business windows are decorated with various yellow posters to protest.

You have to admire the spirit of public ‘participation’ that this parking scheme has brought to the fore, but walking down 4th avenue I get the distinct impression that Parkhurst, its charm and its vibe is stronger than the bureaucrats, and that for us it will remain an awesome place to visit – even if we have to walk half a block or so from our car to the shops! :-)

Image credits: All photography by me

Parisian inspiration by Carla Coulson

My family is a particularly close one. When we’re all together for Christmas, no one can go quiet for five minutes without being asked “are you in a mood?” There’s none stop talking and everyone knows everyone else’s secrets. Really, it’s kind of scary. So with my baby brother in Paris, there comes a time when Skype, even video Skype, or Facetime just won’t do the trick. I need to go and see him to ask him in person, every five minutes: “are you in a mood…?” And so off to Paris it is!

To get into the spirit, I’ve done a whole lot of ‘Paris-y’ things: read The Paris Wife, rented the Midnight in Paris DVD, dusted off and re-read the old copy of Peter Mayle’s trilogy about life in Provence. And - I paged through my collection of coffee table books, noticing that I seem to have a soft spot for those photographic books by someone who bought some house somewhere in France.

That includes a story about an extraordinary photographer who lives in Paris. I first fell in love with Carla Coulson and her beautiful photography when I read her book, Italian Joy. She is an Australian woman that gave up her successful corporate job to move to Florence to study Italian. After a while she enrolled in a photography school, met the obligatory Italian boy along the way and a new career and a new life was born. She moved to Paris and wrote the book, Paris Tango. I love the book because her writing is fabulous, giving us more than the photos that are already so beautiful that the images would have been enough anyway. She brings to life the Moulin Rouge backstage, artists' ateliers, haute couture shows and the private lives of Parisians.

She is also the photographer responsible for two other books on my bookshelf, so as you can see, I am a huge fan! Her daily blog is filled with beautiful images that she created or with all things photography than interests her. Well worth the read.

You can visit her website here or like her Facebook page.

Image credit: Photo taken by me

What happened to travelling light?

I remember going on a 16-day backpacking trip through Italy about 12 years ago. My bag had enough clothes for about 4 days (and a tube of liquid washing soap), a sleeping bag for nights in backpackers hostels, a pen in case I want to send a postcard home and just enough money in my purse to get me back home again in time for the next payday.

The two most important and valuable items is my bag were a Lonely Planet guidebook and my camera (and a couple of film rolls). And that was it. I can remember phoning home once from a telephone box downstairs in the Uffizi in Florence, my only contact with the “outside world”.

Times have changed and now we all seem to have our fingers glued to the screens of our mobiles. So, packing for a trip nowadays reminds me a lot of an IT installation project or two I had the misfortune to witness during my days as an IT consultant: there are cables everywhere. I am leaving for a trip later this week with my husband and the picture below shows our current version of “a guidebook and a camera”. Every item comes in its own protective cover or bag and every item needs its own power supply. With a luggage allowance of 23kg per suitcase on the plane, we'll be lucky to fit enough clothes for four days into our bags!!

Image credit: Photo taken by me

Seeing stars at the Wits Art Museum

After almost a week of being confined to the house by the flu, the weekend was the perfect excuse to get out of the house, but then, how do you celebrate your first day out? Something special is needed… So, on the recommendation of my physicist friend, who is generally quite proud of what happens on his campus, it was off to the newly opened Wits Art Museum.

Warren Buffett is quoted as having said “today you’re sitting in the shade because twenty years ago someone planted a tree.” Well, seven decades ago a staff member at the Arts department of Wits received a R150 grant from the University to use as a teaching aid. She went on to spend the money on the beginnings of a collection that has since grown to include more than 9,000 works. In 1977, the Getrude Posel Gallery opened to become the collection’s first permanent home, but in 2002, when the University needed the space for student facilities a new locale was needed.

Within the University’s cultural precinct, on the corner of Jan Smuts Avenue and Jorissen Street in Braamfontein, a modern new building with peripheral glass walls is the exciting new home for the Wits Art Museum. It boasts 5,000m2 of space over four floors. To celebrate the opening of the Museum on the 19th of May this year, an exhibition named WAM! Seeing Stars was opened - it features almost 400 pieces of extraordinary African art. Designed to celebrate and highlight the stars of the entire collection, you can see bronze sculptures by Sydney
Kumalo, charcoal drawings by William Kentridge and photos by David Goldblatt.

In each gallery I visit there is a highlight that comes home with me, and I can never tell which one it’s going to be. Here, it was the delightful Swansong of a Sausage Dog by Bruce Arnott, and it’s my favourite work in the gallery just because it made me smile, go back to look at it again, and made the flu of the past week fade into the background on a cloud of whimsy!

You can like their Facebook page here.

Image credits: All photography by me

Under the weather

Oh dear. I have the flu. And it is not pretty. In sympathy, my husband is 100% on board with the symptoms and together we sneeze and sniffle all day long. When we told Daniel that he will have to be in charge now and tend to us, his greatest concerns were that he cannot make coffee or pour wine! :-)

So, I’ll leave you today with pictures of a sculpture I took in the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens last weekend. Maybe I should soldier on …. or I could just return to my bed.

Image credits: All photography by me

Keep Calm and Carry On

Have you ever wondered about the story behind the Keep Calm and Carry On posters? This video tells the tale of its origin at the beginning of WW2 and its rediscovery in a bookshop in England in 2000.

To see the video, click here.

Image credit: YouTube

Macaroon in Greenside

My series on Greenside will not be complete without telling you about Macaroon. The good news is that it is actually an on-line business with a studio in Greenside. So, whether you are in Birmingham or Britstown, Macaroon is just a click away.

The company specialises in personalised stationary. They do a large range of products such as calendars, year planners and birthday invitations that you can personalise with your own favourite photos. I love the house rules and the life lesson posters were you can put your child’s name or family name on the poster. Just imagine the treat to receive an invite or letter from someone written on personalised stationary. It instantly transports you back to a more stylish time, a time before mass-emailed digital communications when someone had to actually put more than 25 seconds of thought and effort into an invitation or letter.

Notwithstanding the fact that they deal in old-school style, all their business is done on-line and you access it through their Facebook page. You can simply drag and drop your photographs or your children’s art onto the product you like. Add personal messages, and choose your design and colour palette. Enter your details, check out online and your purchase is delivered to your door.

The studio itself is a treat. Owners Taryn and Cheryl bubble with energy and you can come in and sit down with them if you want more personal assistance. The shelves in the small studio have small “tooth mouse kits”, incredibly funky sticky tape dispensers and files for “Useless documents to provide appearance of importance in meetings”. All in bright colours, all very stylish and sophisticated and all on my private wish list!

You can visit their website here or like their Facebook page.

Image credits: All photography be my

An autumn afternoon in the park

Over the weekend, the continued autumn weather was perfect for a stroll with Daniel in the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens. Now, this is something we easily take for granted, and we forget that until about the 1850’s, the concept of an open space, and which is used for nothing but the recreation of the citizens, was completely unheard of. In cities older than Johannesburg, for example London, chances are that any open spaces older than 1850 or so were either a royal garden, an open air market or a military parade ground. So the fact that we have the gardens as a kind of public space is something to be thankful for.

In this particular park, one of the central features is the Emmarentia dam. Both the dam and farm are situated on what used to be Louw Geldenhuys’s part of the original Braamfontein farm. The dam was built mainly to provide work for landless Boer farmers at the end of the South Africa war in 1902 and Louw named it after his wife, Emmarentia.

We decided to explore the northern section of the garden, strolling past the rose garden located next to terraced ponds and fountains, the herb garden and also a section called the Shakespeare garden. It seems that all the flowers here were noted by Shakespeare in the 16th century and all are labelled with names and quotations from his various plays.

And then, something quite unexpected happened. I was amazed to see not only one, but three different wedding parties using the park for their formal wedding photos during the hour or two we were there. I read afterwards that the park has its own wedding venue with a chapel garden and they can cater for 80 wedding parties during a weekend! Luckily for the brides, with over 30 000 trees in the park covering an area of over 81 hectares, none of them needed to be in danger of stealing the other’s thunder!

Image credits: All photography by me

Jamie Beck and her incredible photography

My own blog looked a bit like a bachelor’s cupboard two days before payday this week, so I decided to share with you someone else’s blog that I love and read on a daily basis (read also about the previous blog I shared with you here).

Jamie Beck is a New York-based fashion photographer and she is the force behind a very popular photo blog named From Me To You on tumblr. On the blog she shares projects that she is working on, creating this amazing archive of her work for all of us to indulge in. She has a few interesting themes on her blog, including “Dinner and A Movie” where she posts recipes and photographs the entire process, a “24 hours in” section featuring the beautiful places where her work takes her and gorgeous house features. Her pictures of Paris and New York are beautiful, but it is her black and white photography that I find breathtaking. Really, I mean exactly that. Every day, just before I open her blog I find myself holding my breath in excited anticipation. She is amazing.

She is also creating a bit of a revolution in photography. Together with her fiancĂ©, Kevin Burg, a web designer with a background in video and motion graphics, they took animated GIF photography to a new level. Basically, what it means is that they add motion to a still image by animating one object in the picture. They started making these incredible images in 2011 and coined the term “cinemagraph”.  

Amazing Animated Photography by Jamie Beck (20 pics)


To follow her blog, click here. To see more of their cinemagraphs, click here

Image credits: All Jamie Beck


 Image credit: Photo taken by me