What Celebrate Southern Africa Means to Me

When the idea of Celebrate Southern Africa was born, I thought it would be fun – something exciting and interesting to get involved with and to enjoy some South African company.

Little did I realise the impact it would have on me…

The concept of belonging has occupied my thinking over the last couple of years as I really don’t feel I belong anywhere.

I left South Africa to travel 22 years ago, and I am still here.  I now have a bit more than the backpack I arrived with, but it still does not feel like home. When people hear my accent, I feel them metaphorically taking a step back and I am treated like a visitor or even a tourist.  I often have to fight my corner because I am not taken seriously – what does she know?  She’s not even from here.  I have to have cultural references explained to me and I am often left out of conversations because I have no idea who or what people are talking about or the jokes they are making. Sometimes people notice this and make a joke of it too, but I do often think they really don’t understand how it makes me feel – and why should they?  They have not been in the same situation. Being so socially isolated and so lonely can be quite difficult – character-building, but still difficult.

I go back to South Africa for holidays and you know what?  It is the same there. Besides the memories I have of the first 24 years of my life in the country and my on-going friendships with my South African friends, I have lost 22 years of social and cultural experiences.  I don’t know who people are speaking about, what incidents they are referring or what somethings mean.  I feel like a stranger in my own country.

Those who have emigrated and immigrated will know what this feels like. And since I lost my mother, I barely have a DNA connection left in South Africa.  I have no children, no parents, no grandparents, no grandchildren, no siblings, no nieces or nephews, not even any god-children – so I am as genetically isolated in the UK as I am in South Africa.

So, where do I belong?  I am kept at arm’s length in the UK and I am unfamiliar with so many things in South Africa.

20150627_163648But, by making contact with South Africans who are in the same position as me in this country, I instantly feel connected.  A South African pointed out that working with other South Africans in the UK and running a business that attracts South Africans, means they feel less homesick.  That has touched my heart because I can completely understand.  I am not only homesick for South Africa, I am homesick for South Africans too – people who understand how hard it is to be away from what we know, people who use the same language, make the same cultural references, people who are carving a niche for themselves in a foreign country without their family and friends, South Africans who ‘get’ each other and who share the same history and roots. As I get older I value my history so much more. I am proud of my past and my family tree, but it means so little if we don’t make it work for us in the present and take it proudly with us into the future.

Celebrate Southern Africa is not just a weekend for me to enjoy South African food and drink, South African products and South African company – it is about me being connected, feeling a part of a community and being with people who understand me without knowing me – it is about one of the most basic of human needs – it is about belonging.

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What are Tapas?

That depends on who you ask.  Tapas vary across Spain, region to region and town to town.  The general definition is that tapas are snacks, appetizers, canapés – samples of food on small plates. They can be cold – olives, cheese, onions – or hot – squid, vegetables, fish, spicy chorizo sausage, slow-cooked beef cheek, sweet potato puree and everything in between.

There are some wonderful stories about where tapas came from, which of course are firmly set in folklore.

One story claims that King Alfonso X, El Sabio or “The Wise One” gave birth to tapas. While on a long journey across Spain, he stopped to rest in Ventorillo del Chato, a town in the southern province of Cádiz. He ordered a sherry, and as Cádiz is known for being very windy, the inn keeper covered the sherry with a piece of ham to prevent dust blowing into the glass.  The king really liked it and when he ordered another sherry, he requested it come with a tapa, or a cover. King Alfonso is said to have then passed a law in the province of Castile that all drinks had to be served with a small portion of food to slow down the effects of alcohol and thus reduce rowdiness, boisterous behaviour and arguments.

16661D4C1CAnother story tells how tapas became popular in inns which had sprung up along the major routes across Spain.  Most of the travellers and inn keepers could not read, so when exhausted travellers stopped for refreshments, instead of a menu, they were offered samples of the dishes on offer before they placed their order. These were served on the covers of the pots, or tapas.

Many early food establishments only offered standing room, and so, due to lack of space, people placed their small portions of food on top of their drinks. This became known as tapas.

Some say that sherry and wine were used to ‘cover up’ the taste of very strong smelly cheese, hence tapas.

Whatever the etymology of tapas, it is a very social way to eat. The sharing of small dishes of food seem to encourage conversation and create a relaxed environment and a social atmosphere.

Join your friends at a local Spanish restaurant and do as the Spanish do.

Bravo!


I Will Never Ever Choose a Political Path

I have always wanted to be a politician.  I have a deep sense of service. I want to make a difference.  I don’t feel my life has any other meaning except to help others and to empower people to have a voice.

But, I will never ever choose a political path and in the last few days this has been confirmed for me.

I have seen how aggressive people are to and about their politicians, how they judge them, and how their personalities have been analysed and ripped to shreds.  I will never put myself in a position for people to destroy my soul when they have never met me, don’t know me and have no idea what makes me tick – or even how things work.

There is not one politician in the Western world, who sits down and decides, “Which group of people can I tread on today?  Which group of people do I need to make suffer?”  You can dislike or even hate a politician, but can you honestly say this happens?  Maybe in a dictatorship or in an authoritarian regime, but in a Western democracy?  And I would like to point out, individuals do not have this kind of power in a democracy.  A partocracy prevents this kind of behaviour and safeguards the represented population from leaders who may hope to be in a positon to tread on the people.  There are also checks and balances to ensure that if they did behave like this they would be removed…and rather swiftly.

If you truly believe that politicians are ‘out to get’ a group of people, or don’t care about a portion of the population, then I believe you are blinkered and you are politically naïve. Decisions are made collectively by those in government (which were voted into office by the majority of the population) and in consultation with the opposition party and other representatives in government. When people say that politician A put this or that in the party manifesto…think again.  No individual does that, ever!  It is a party (a group of people) which decides on the manifesto, which has Think Tanks, working committees, specialists, party leadership and party members.

Political parties all have the same goal – to get into government.  How do they get into government in a democracy?  They are voted in by the people.  How do they get the people to vote for them?  They put proposals forward or policies in place to deliver services, protect the country and to develop international relationships on our behalf. Each political party has a different path to get to this goal – some parties focus on individual rights above the collective, others believe the labour force is the foundation and starting point for their work, some put the collective ahead of the individual.  So the journey to getting into government for each party is different, but the ultimate goal is exactly the same.  Make the people happy and they vote for you.  No party deliberately makes people unhappy – why would people vote for them then?  It makes no sense to believe they do this.

The media, commentators, know-it-alls, ‘couch’ politicians and everyone else all have an opinion – and thank goodness we live in a country where we can, but before you decide that politician A or B or C is a certain kind of person, think about this:

  1. Every decisions is made, not in isolation, but considering and taking into account many many other aspects and circumstances
  2. Imagine how you would cope in the same circumstance knowing you would be damned if you did and damned if you didn’t. Take a step back and think clearly, not emotionally, why that politician is saying, or proposing something. Nothing is clear-cut, nothing is black or white.
  3. We do not have all the facts to hand – remember we do not sit in offices and behind closed doors when these issues are being debated, discussed and then ultimately decided on. We are not specialists and, we do not know all the implications or factors that influence, determine or justify political decisions. We, the populace, have elected people to do this for us. Politics, in itself, is also a specialism.
  4. Image that politician is your father, your mother, your sister, your brother. In their personal lives they too are parents, children and have friends – how dare we decide they are a certain type of person when we have never met them.
  5. Think about this – many politicians could do any other job earning much more money. Contrary to popular belief, politicians do not earn loads of money.  They have chosen to represent the people, for less money, work many more hours and put themselves in the firing line from the public. All to make a difference and because they feel strongly about certain issues. Would you do this?
  6. Politicians have traditionally and historically been from the elite classes. This has changed – yes it has! The parliamentarians and political leaders we have today have come from all levels of society – yes, some are from money – but that’s what society is – some have money, some don’t. Why is this a problem? And why does money make you a nasty person?  Can someone help inheriting money?  Why is someone bad for working hard, employing people and becoming rich? Why does an expensive education make you untrustworthy or evil?  I would prefer a well-educated person representing me in a complex society and a complicated world, who really gets it, than someone who has no idea. Wouldn’t you? (This really has nothing to do with money, but everything to do with knowledge, passion and intelligence). I don’t understand how these things all work, and if someone has more knowledge than me – please represent and lead, please negotiate for me and on my behalf, because I really do not have the information, expertise and know-how to do it myself.
  7. Put yourself in their shoes for a day – and tell me you would make a different decision.
  8. Politicians are human beings – they feel what we feel – rejection, pain, frustration, passion, anger, happiness, fulfillment, love, fear, confidence or a lack of.

Now, I am not saying, don’t have an opinion – but have an opinion or a belief about the politics, the journey to the goal or the decision, but be fair to the person. If you are passionate about individual rights, align yourself with the party that has policies which lead towards the goal that put the individual first. If you believe in the collective above the individual, consider a party that does the same.

Remember, every country has a government they deserve – if you aren’t happy with your current government, make sure you vote them out next time.  If you are in a dictatorship, rally the people to rise up against the oppressors. And if you have a strong opinion about how the politicians are handling an issue with what they are doing – stand! Stand for political positions. I am sure, under your leadership, things will be so much better.


Democracy – Limitless

I have been a member of many organisations and community groups, who all claim to be democratic. I say, claim, because in reality they do not tick many democratic boxes, and for some or other reason, the members within the group either don’t know what it truly means to be in a democracy, or they choose to ignore it.  I really don’t know which one is worse.

So, let’s look at a procedural democracy:

  1. A number of people come together to form an organisation or association and wish it to be run democratically.
  2. There has to be more than one member – or it won’t need a democratic process.
  3. Rules are laid out, which are binding upon the members.
  4. A process and agenda for decision-making is clearly laid out.
  5. Decision-making about rules have to include everyone with membership as they are the ones whose interests will be affected by the decisions.
  6. No single member’s demands, request, opinions or ideas are superior to the other members within the group. If one person shows to have more influence, then a democracy does not exist.
  7. There has to be equal and adequate opportunity for all members to put forward questions, ideas and suggestions on the agenda.
  8. Every member should have the opportunity to express their reasons for endorsing outcomes and act accordingly.
  9. Each member’s choices expressed, must carry equal weight.
  10. The organisation needs to ensure that enlightened understanding is not reserved for a few, but that all members know what they want (opportunities need to be made for everyone to explore options and gain the necessary knowledge they need to be informed about democratic procedure within the organisation)
  11. It is the responsibility of elected leaders to ensure that every member knows how their participation in decision-making can make things better for the organisation and for themselves.
  12. There has to be an emphasis on education in all areas of operation, rights, rules and participation.
  13. Members should be the ones to decide what they want to decide and how they want to decide these things. Only members know what is important to them and what the organisation needs and so they are the ones who must control the agenda of the organisation.
  14. The people ARE the organisation, so the people are sovereign.
  15. The organisation needs to have a clear picture of the conditions under which the members may delegate their authority.
  16. Inclusiveness is key to the democratic function of an organisation.
  17. One of the most important characteristics in a democratic organisation is the continuing responsiveness of the leadership to the members of the organisation. This is a ‘make or break’ element and vital to success.

democracyNow that these points are laid out I can see why so many organisations fold, run out of money, have internal conflict and generally do not come near to the targets and goals they originally set out to achieve.

I feel strongly about democracy – I know it is not perfect – it has many flaws.  But I also know that it works, especially on a small scale in a community group.  It empowers members and promotes self-realisation of the individual. When people are given opportunities they flourish.

Democracy, it seems, brings out the best in people and when you have a group of people growing, learning, inspiring, motivating and engaging within an organisation….well, can you see the potential?  Limitless!


Honey & Walnut Tart

This is the first tart I ever made and it turned out so well! I got it from the National Trust cookbook and I wanted to share it – it is also made with my favourite ingredient – HONEY! It has been such a hit with friends and family that I am making my second one this week.

Ingredients

For the pastry:

175g / 6oz plain flour

85g / 3oz butter

40g / 1.5oz icing sugar

2 tbsp water

For the filling:

85g / 3oz butter

100g / 3.5oz set honey

4 medium eggs

175g / 6oz demerara sugar

100g / 3.5oz walnut pieces

100g / 3.5oz roughly chopped, toasted hazelnuts

Method:

  1. Add the flour, butter and icing sugar together and rub the butter in until it is a mixture of fine crumbs.
  2. Gradually mix in the water to make a smooth dough.
  3. Lightly knead the pastry.
  4. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface until a little bigger than 23cm / 9 inch tart tin.
  5. Butter the tart tin.
  6. Press the pastry into the tin and trim above the top (this will allow for shrinkage).
  7. Prick the base.
  8. Chill for 30 minutes.
  9. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C / gas mark 5 / 370 degrees F.
  10. Line the tart tin (which has the pastry in it) with baking paper and baking beans.
  11. Bake for 10 minutes.
  12. Remove the paper and the beans.
  13. Bake for 5 minutes.
  14. Melt the butter over a low heat.
  15. Take the melted butter off the heat and add in the honey.
  16. Beat the eggs lightly in a separate bowl.
  17. Beat the eggs into the butter mixture.
  18. Add the sugar.
  19. Mix until smooth.
  20. Sprinkle the nuts over the base of the tart case.
  21. Pour the mixture over the nuts.
  22. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the filling is set.
  23. Leave to cool.

Cut into wedges and serve with thick cream, ice cream or crème fraiche. And of course it is also perfect with a cup of tea!

 


Amma-Zing Aloe Vera

The Aloe Vera plant is indigenous to Africa but it will flourish anywhere that is warm and dry. It is not a cactus, but a succulent and a member of the lily family. Interestingly, garlic, onion and asparagus are part of the same family. The plant is generally classified as a small bushy plant with very fleshy leaves – only 1-1.5% of the plant is solid and the rest is water, which is perfect to moisturize the skin. Aloe Vera truly is one of nature’s most wonderful ingredients for the skin.


Zeus & the Bee

The bee, queen of the hive, flew from My Hymettus to the top of Mount Olympus with some of her freshest and tastiest honey from her combs, to present to Zeus, king of the gods. Zeus was so delighted with the gift that he offered to grant the bee any wish she desired. The bee thought for a while and her request was as follows: “I would like a sting so that I am able to kill a mortal who comes near my hive or near my honey.” Zeus was not happy with this request as he had a deep love for the human race, but he had promised the queen bee he would grant her a wish, so he responded to the request: “A sting you shall have, but know that when you sting a mortal, you shall lose your life from the loss if the sting.” The moral of the story: never ask for evil to befall your enemies – evil will rebound. And that is how the bee came to have only one sting.

See & hear this story on YouTube