The summer wind came blowin’ in from across the sea
It lingered there, to touch your hair and walk with me
All summer long we sang a song and then we strolled that golden sand
Two sweethearts and the summer wind

When the wind chooses to lie still, and the barometer is standing high, and the days become filled with Indian summer weather, its warm enough for swimming in the lake. Occasionally the oppressive heat brings thunderclouds with fat dollops of rain.

In slow-motion I’d watch the globs, which I am told, are travelling at a speed of twenty kilometres per hour, hit the red brick paving. The moment of impact is like thousands of pebbles raining down on Tangleberry lake.DROPPING WATER - SHARP 50 - 935 PIXELS - IMG_7013On closer inspection, each glob on impact, creates a perfect cupcake in reverse – a round voluptuous body, with a flat top. Except these cupcakes are transparent and completely hollow inside – sad for cupcake enthusiasts. At the pinnacle of this translucent dome, ringed like a king’s crown, millions of globules of water, perfectly symmetrical, fly up into the air only to disintegrate at the apex of their height. And that is what I see. Thousands of little bubbles bursting across the red verandah floor. Watching this murderous splatter takes me to back to the monsoon rains of my childhood. As a six year old, stamping raindrops trying to create even more bubbles. And then the voice of my grandmother. “MICHAEL”. I freeze in mid-air. Then I fall on my last splash.

One day in a moment of reflection while watching tadpoles blowing bubbles, I saw the repercussion of some recent storms. Several majestic Blue Gums lay straddled down the hillside. It was sad to see them lying there splayed out, dead like lifeless bodies after an almighty great battle. I had grown attached to them. Especially the companionship they brought on a warm summers’ day. The loss of their sweet scents of Eucalyptus would be felt.LEMON BLOSSOM - 935 PIXELS - IMG_3492But what nature takes away, she also gives back. It was at that moment my manliness took a step forward. I decided to purchase a chain-saw. Wood was needed in the months to come for the spacious Tangleberry Cottage fireplace.

Twenty-four hours later, I sat staring at this neanderthal technology that I had never held in my life before. Slightly terrified by its vicious teeth I pondered the complexities of cutting trees thicker than my portly waist. Stephan King came to life. I couldn’t possibly call this primitive looking piece of machinery Christine. Or Chris . . . too woosie! Caddoc and Caid were great warriors in Welsh mythology. Maybe Höðr, god forbid the machinery came to life and behaved like Loki. And what if he didn’t like his name? Oh no! . . . My imagination was starting to take over. Fortunately by coincidence a visiting artisan suggested a solution. I packed Höðr up into his box and phoned a technically-minded neighbour.CLOUDS MOODY & BLUE SKY - CROP - SHARP 100 - 935 PIXELS - IMG_5646 copyThe following day I was introduced to a portly coloured gentleman by the name of Johnnie Witbooi. A retired farmworker with ailing knees and a lisp, who addressed me as Mister Mike. Smartly dressed, black satchel in hand and a cap on his head, he told me his life story.

Born and bred in Grabouw, Johnnie has worked in the farmlands his whole life. He is a master irrigation man put out to pasture earlier than expected by the farming community. He proudly claimed that he can fix anything – a jack-of-all trades, his wife Lizzie claims. She also adds, he’s a romantic. He likes to serenade her on their evenings together.JOHNNIE & ACCORDIAN - 935 PIXELS - IMG_9068But Johnnie is a cynical man in some ways, and some may say, even embittered.

“Oh Mister Mike there was much more work available in the apartheid days. The blacks today only want to give work to each other. It very difficult for people like me.” his eyes were filled with bitterness. He then added, “In the apartheid days I was too black to be white. But now I am too white to be black”.

Johnnie’s life is deeply rooted in his faith. He prided himself on being a church-going man. And his faith rings out lustily at the location church on Sundays and Wednesdays. Each morning when I collected him on the N2 I realised even more, how deep the influence of the lord was in his life.

A typical morning conversation would be.

“Môre Mister Mike. The Almighty has given us a beautiful day, let us enjoy it”.

“Yes Johnnie, and what happens if it rains later”, I would answer sceptically.

“Mister Mike, then the lord has brought us a beautiful gift . . . the rain will feed your olive trees and apple trees and fig trees and vegetables . . . and in a few months you’ll have food on your table”.

He then added.

“And Mister Mike when the apples, figs and olives fall, some will take root. Isn’t the Almighty wonderful that he gives you fruits trees like this? And it’s for nothing, it’s free. And think of the money you save from not buying from that expensive nursery in the Valley?”

I was about to explain to him the value of a grafted tree as to one that springs from the seed of a fallen fruit, when I thought, Ah! the lord has an answer to that. So I just nodded my head. I couldn’t argue with that logic, let alone convince a man that nature and the Almighty were only connected through parables.PAMPAS - SHARP 50 - 935 PIXELS - IMG_6992Johnnie Witbooi is also a master know-it-all, who will always make a plan, (some sadly, with disastrous results). However, he is a well-connected man in Pineview, the location that lies next to Grabouw. Now that has value to me, as buried in that population of twenty thousand or more, are some artisans with talent. Others would add, ‘and a crafty mind’.

Johnnie lives with his wife and two grown-up children in the old poor white quarter in Pineview East – part wooden floorboards, part brick and part corrugated iron. He loves his wife dearly and celebrates their marriage of forty-three years with regularity, usually a nice chocolate filled cake and a pot of Rooibos tea.

At the end of each day I would drive Johnnie, Oliver, and any other recommended farmhand that he had conjured up, back to their homes at the location. They would share the back seat of the double cab with Tyson, our birdie dog who was a bit put off at having to share his back seat with three other bodies. The back seat is the centre of Tyson’s own universe.DOG & SHOOLCHILDREN - CROP - 935 PIXELS - IMG_8355

Driving through the location is scary. I have to negotiate potholes the size of giant footballs in narrow streets, darting playing children with no sense of direction, a mass of returning farmworkers all dressed in blue overalls with no respect for any vehicle. The conniving eyes of thieving rascals and untrained dogs that bark with venom, and Tyson pounding his ‘woofs’ in my eardrums. I’ve always preferred bass woofs of a large dog, to a ‘c’ note yelps of a yapping Yorkshire terrier.

Prying eyes in doorways and windows told me that driving a new bakkie in Pineview East was risky. I had to keep a sharp lookout for hijackers. Luckily I had Oliver to guide me out, as my sense of direction would only take me deep into the seedy side of life in Pineview.HILL & REEDS - CROP - SHARP - 935 PIXELS - IMG_3934I was considering building a part retaining wall that separated the lawn from the half-brick driveway. A simple feature that one could relax on with a glass of champagne while watching the tadpole frolic. A straight forward plastered wall, with some coping and red brick steps. Bonnie now was into the spirit of building, encouraging me to go beyond a feature. More towards a monument to be remembered.

As I drove Johnnie home one day, I posed the question, with my fingers crossed of an honest, decent stonemason, (I was fed-up with the Gruppenführers who stood arrogantly and watched the real workers slog the grindstone while they kept most of the moola). I felt knowledgable enough after the battering I took from the shylocks of Grabouw to supervise this job myself.

Johnnie informed me that some three doors down from his home, lived a master stonemason named Garth Mentoor. It seems Garth was extending his pondockie with crafted stonework. And right now was unemployed.

“He’s very short of cash now Mr Mike . . . and you can get a good deal out of him”

Johnnie looked at me with a glint in his eyes. His raised eyebrows made him look like a horse racing tipster passing on some secret information.

“His wife complains at him many times a day. She’s got a very nasty voice Mr. Mike. Me and my wife can hear her even in the middle of the night . . . oohhh, that voice Mr. Mike”. Johnny shudders at the thought, then continues, “This is very bad for our sleep”.

Johnnie offered to arrange a meeting at the end of the following day, but first he’d like to show me Garth’s workmanship. By then we had arrived at Johnnie’s home. With his thumb, he pointed backwards. I reversed three houses and stopped. And there stood a man, minus four front teeth, puffing on an entjie, slapping cement, busy crafting a stone wall from a pile of nearby rocks. I realised our meeting had just been brought forward.STONEMASON GARTH - REDUCED COLOUR - SHARP 100 RADIUS 2.4 - 935 PIXELS - IMG_2096 copySELF-APPOINTED MASTER STONEMASON – GARTH MENTOOR

I studied Garth’s workmanship and although not in the style I was looking for, I thought under supervision, and aided with references, the job could be done to my liking. Johnnie called Garth over. I looked into his glazed orange eyes swimming with dust particles and asked myself, ‘Do I trust this man?’ My suspicious nature said ‘NO!’ But what choice did I have? None. My lunacy had gone over the edge. I wanted my stone wall and my choice of stonemasons was limited.

A deal was done starting at R500 a day and ending with R300, which is the traditional price paid for a master bricklayer. This I felt was still too expensive, as cementing stone takes a lot longer than laying a brick. A good bricky can do 800 bricks a day. A good stonemason does 10 rocks, if I am lucky.

We haggled. I argued that building the stone wall would take a lot longer and he would be employed for longer. I switched on the bakkie’s ignition, indicating I was driving off unless he dropped his price. He did. We settled on R250 (I kept the motor running). But he had to give me some reassurance as to how long the job would take? I didn’t want to be strung along for weeks or maybe even months.

Garth promised me he would do the job in two weeks. I looked into his smoky glazed eyes with suspicion, then slowly nodded my head. He smiled, revealing his missing front teeth, reminiscent of bare shelves at a karoo trading store.

Deal done I agreed to collect him with Johnnie the following morning.

The morning arrived with a beaming Garth and an assistant stonemason. Costs went up.

“What’s this?” I said.

“I need a stonemason assistant”.

Within twenty-four hours he hijacked one of my farmhands, Mornay – now he had a stonemason gofer. Two days later I realised I was dealing with a wily, scheming rascal. I also discovered dagga had two meanings.VIRGIL ASSISTANT STONE MASON - A - REDUCED COLOUR - SHARP 100 RADIUS 2.4 - 935 PIXELS - IMG_2080-2 copySTONEMASON ASSISTANT – VIRGIL

Garth Mentoor was born 1966 on the location streets outside the small Klein Karoo town of Klaarstroom at 2.14pm. Precisely the same time Prime minister Verwoerd was assassinated entering the ‘House of Assembly’ by parliamentary messenger Dimitri Tsafendas. The significance was purely coincidental as his life was to prove.

Garth was a care free boy who always threw caution at the wind until the day he ended up in the chookie for hitting a neighbour with a brick once too often.

Work was scarce in those parts. A slow lingering malaise drained life away from the location community. What energy the village could offer was gone, and inevitably the dry winds of change arrived. Slowly the little houses emptied of friends, neighbours, family and their possessions. The location looked stranded on the slopes of the Swartberg mountains. When night arrived the once busy village melted into the darkness. Not a flicker of life could be seen or heard.

With the exodus came the passing of his mother. His brothers and sisters drifted apart in search of work. Soon he learnt that quick wits was more likely to put food on his table.

He self-ordained himself as the master of the stonemason universe, an art he self-taught with the help of a great master. Many believed him. He spoke like an errant preacher hell-bent on converting all to his convictions. Today the young impressionable boys at the location listen wide-eyed at each word. Some even mimic his swagger. It’s a kind of John Wayne meets a ramp model.

Over the next twenty years he made his way around the Klein Karoo eventually settling in Pineview East.

Garth Mentoor feared no one until the day he met his wife. On payday he would meekly hand over his weeks wages. She would look at his pay-packet and sceptically count each note and coin. With pleading eyes he would watch. Then she would extract a small portion and hesitantly give him his beer money. He in turn would return an appreciative toothless grin.STONEMASON GOFFER - A-1 - COLOUR - SHARP 100 RADIUS 2.4 - 935 PIXELS - IMG_2112STONEMASON GOFER – MORNE

Work started with gusto. For the next two days Garth and his assistant stonemason Virgil selected large rocks and boulders from the mountainous mass that I’d piled high with a digger-loader. Then they chipped the rocks into shape like accomplished sculptors – some square, some oblong but mostly similar in size. I wondered where each piece fitted in? Our master stonemason did not have a clue. But he did offer some hope.

“I’ll find a spot for them. Don’t you worry Mr Mike”.OLIVER & JOHNNIE - B&W - CROP - 935 PIXELS - IMG_7877He spent the day bragging about his past achievements to his three disciples. Mornay his new gofer gaped at him wide-eyed in reverence and Virgil smiled. (In hidden shadows he’d heard it all before). It was a smile that one gives to a benefactor, for I’m sure Virgil knew that unemployment was not far away should he not display obedience to the self-ordained king of stone masonry.

Robustly confident, Garth Mentoor’s words were filled with grandiloquence, mostly in gestures. Lofty in tone and certainly big-talking. To an outsider like me, his speeches seemed erudite but as time went by I discovered them to be more claptrap.

His feeling of self-importance was displayed in his strut, as he walked about the building site giving out instructions to his underlings making up the concrete. I sensed he preferred to watch others experience physical exertion. He’d wince at their pain, but always showed a sigh of relief.BLUE GUMS & ROAD - CROP - 935 PIXELS - IMG_8449Garth Mentoor’s day started with plumes of blue smoke billowing from his mouth. Like a steam train permanently parked by a railway platform, he puffed on rolled cigarettes throughout the day. Our master stonemason is a happy chap and every moment of his day was spent constantly chatting and laughing. This did not help productivity. The fact that I didn’t speak Afrikaans was a bonus to him as he could skinner while giving an air of serious business being discussed.

As the days passed, I realised there were other matters more important that building my stone wall. These no doubt were causing a delay in the building of the wall. His continuous babbling was certainly one. When conversations of his achievements got a bit repetitive, the subject of food took over. Then suggestions of personally cooked meals by me started getting introduced. He liked rump steak – how did I prepare my meat dishes? I quickly explained that meals and my cooking skills were not in the budget. I told him to focus on his work and to eat the food his wife painstakingly prepared for him in his tuck-box. His response.

“Mr. Mike, I have no money for rump steak”.

“But you have money for cigarettes”. I pointed out.

Glum-faced he went back to work. But I knew he’d soon try a new tack. It happened the following day. With a pencil, he started drawing on the rocks. And with raised eyebrows, and looking me straight in the eye with his ashtray breath, he showed me his artwork – a healthy bull.

I took his pencil and added udders and a pail. With furrowed eyebrows he walked off sulking.

The two weeks came and went and I started to realise that I had a wily manipulator on my hands. His intentions were clear. To be employed for as long as possible. The longer he took to build the wall the more pay days he would have. What I had to do was reduce his babbling?

The answer arrived early one morning when I overheard a conversation between Garth and Bonnie.

“Jeez Garth that’s hectic gunja you are smoking so early in the morning”.

“No Mrs B they are banana leaves” This brought out hysterical laughter from the admiring workforce.

“ Yeah, right! There’s no ways those are banana leaves with that hectic smell?”

“That’s how I always start my day”, Garth quickly chirped back.

At this point I realised that the dagga was causing the delay’s. The question I asked myself, how do I stop them being permanently goofed?

I decided to plead to his greed.

At the end of the day I sat Garth down. I looked into his eyes, a deep orange with brown speckles swirling in a hazy grey mist. He was still goofed. I explained that the wall and the steps had to be finished in a week. If he did finish on time he would get a bonus. If he did not, then I would replace him with someone else. To make the carrot more exciting, I took him around the farm and showed him other stone projects. Some would say imaginary. His eyes glowed with greed.

The work was done with breath-neck speed. I decided to celebrate by introducing him to Jamaican ‘jerk’ cooking – my farewell gift. He said, they all liked chilli. But to be honest they were not up to the Jamaican threshold. However they drank themselves into a stupor on cheap plonk and I drove them home while they sang their favourite Engelbert Humperdinck song, and totally out of tune.

I had the last waltz with you
Two lonely people together
I fell in love with you
The last waltz should last forever

It’s all over now
Nothing left to say
Just my tears and the orchestra playing
La la la la la la la la la la,
La la la la la la la la la la.

When we arrived Garth’s wife was waiting for him at the front door of their home. Her furrowed eyebrows and her hidden lips told me the brave man was in for a rollicking. We watched as the fish-wife of Pineview East gave him several mouthful of what she thought of his state of being. But first she demanded his pay packet. My, how the strong are suddenly meek?PATHWAY BETWEEN TREES & BUSHES - warmer - sharp 50 - 935 PIXELS - IMG_7436The autumn wind, and the winter winds they have come and gone
And still the days, those lonely days they go on and on
And guess who sighs his lullabies through nights that never end
My fickle friend, the summer wind


“Jerk” cooking is so ingrained in Jamaican cooks that the notion of getting a recipe is entertaining, something like asking a Cape Malay for a sosatie recipe”. Please be very careful when chopping the chillies though: streaming eyes can really spoil a feast. Rubber gloves are advisable especially when massaging the chicken.

Serves 6
1 tbsp allspice berries
 – 1 tbsp black peppercorns  –  
½ tsp cinnamon  –  
½ tsp ground nutmeg  –  1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped  –  
4 spring onions, chopped (use the white part and most of the green)  –  
4 Habanero chillies, finely chopped  –  
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tsp salt  – 
2 tbsp dark soy sauce  –  1/2 cup of grape vinegar  –  1/2 cup of rum  – Juice of 1 lime  –  6 chicken legs (thigh with drumstick attached or separated), skin-on.

1. Pound the allspice and the peppercorns in a pestle and mortar to a powder, then add to a food processor along with the vinegar, rum, cinnamon, nutmeg, thyme, spring onions and chillies. Whizz to a purée, then stir in the sugar, salt, soy sauce and lime juice.

2. Pour the marinade into a bowl then add the chicken and massage it into the meat, making sure you get it underneath the skin. Cover and leave to marinate for at least 6 hours, or overnight.(Beware of leaving the chicken in the marinade too long as the vinegar will over-influence the flavour).

3. Light a braai and allow it to cool to a medium heat – you should be able to hold your hand over the grill for 4 seconds. Add the chicken and sear on both sides, then move to the edges of the barbecue, put the lid on the barbecue and cook for about 25 minutes, turning occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through. Serve with roasted sweet potato.

If you prefer pork, fish, or goat then you can apply the same recipe?


What exactly is “Jerk” cooking.
‘Jerk’ refers to a way that a meat, be it chicken, beef, pork, goat, fish, vegetables or fruit is seasoned and cooked. This style comes from Jamaica. The typical cooking style uses a marinade or paste that includes at least pimento, which is often called allspice, and Scotch Bonnet peppers, or Habanero. If you are not that brave, use Jalapeño. The meat is then marinated and slow smoked over pimento wood. Pimento ‘o pimento’ is a Spanish word for pepper and early European explorers mistook this for black pepper, so they called it pimento. I didn’t have any Pimento wood available, so I used Plum wood. It adds a delicious woody sweet flavour – this made me reduce the amount of sugar in the marinade.

If you’d like more info, just google Jamaican Jerk barbecue