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Drop The Ball advocates shattering the glass ceiling - starting at home

For women, a glass ceiling at work is not the only barrier to success – it’s also the emotional labour at home. Women have become accustomed to delegating, advocating and negotiating for themselves at the office, but when it comes to managing households, they still bear the brunt on their own shoulders. A simple solution is staring them in the face: negotiate with the men in their personal lives.

In Drop The Ball, Tiffany Dufu urges women to embrace imperfection, to expect less of themselves and more from others – enabling them to flourish at work and develop deeper, more meaningful relationships at home.

Book details

Interview with Real Meal Revolution: Banting 2.0 Author Jonno Proudfoot

Cover_HR jonno portrait
Jonno Proudfoot is a food expert, entrepreneur and adventurer, and the driving force behind the Real Meal Revolution brand. He conceptualised and co-authored the bestselling Real Meal Revolution and Real Meal Revolution: Raising Superheroes, both of which have been published internationally by the Little, Brown Book Group. He is the MD of the Real Meal Revolution diet company, which specialises in online and face-to-face weight-loss and healthy-eating support. Real Meal Revolution: Banting 2.0, published in December 2016, is his third book.

The original Real Meal Revolution book was launched in November 2013 and has been a publishing sensation in South Africa. What have you been up to since?
Short answer: a lot.
The success of the first book was so sudden and overwhelming that it was difficult to work out what to do next. It’s still on the weekly bestseller lists more than three years later, and I believe we’ve now sold upwards of 250,000 copies, which is incredible in the small South African market.

So where do you go from there?
A very good question!
There were some important personal milestones for me that came in relatively quick succession after the book was released: I had the opportunity to complete a dream adventure with a good friend, swimming the 450kilometres from Mozambique to Madagascar on an epic seven-week journey; I got married; and then my wife Kate fell pregnant not too long after that, an even more epic journey.
From a business perspective, I had registered the trademark for “the Real Meal Revolution” and had always intended to do “something” with the brand – I just wasn’t sure exactly what. I envisioned the business as a healthy eating and lifestyle support company based on the principles set out in the book, and once it was up and running properly the first product we sold from our website was an online weight-loss course with lectures by Prof Noakes and Sally-Ann Creed and cooking lessons from me. It had hundreds of recipes, a shopping list generator and most importantly a meal tracker that clients could use to track their carbs.
Since then, the website has seen a huge amount of traffic and the business has progressed quite radically. Today, we specialise in teaching people to adapt to a low-carb diet. We’ve had close on four million hits since 2015, with an enormous amount of customer feedback to help us refine the Real Meal Revolution approach. The new book is very much a result of this ongoing process.

This is in fact the third Real Meal Revolution book. The first was the original red science-cum-diet-cum-recipe book that has become so recognisable to South African bookstore goers. The second was Real Meal Revolution: Raising Superheroes, on children’s nutrition and also with full-colour recipes. How is the new book different from the others?
This a smaller-format black-and-white book and it’s completely “how-to”-focused – a handbook to help you to Bant as effectively as possible. Basically we’ve taken three years of Banting feedback from thousands of our readers and customers and refined the Real Meal Revolution diet to its most practical, workable form.
There are important staple recipes in the back of the book but this isn’t an inspirational cookbook like the first two books. Rather, I would say it provides the new framework for our next 20 cookbooks.

So is this book a “better version” of the original Real Meal Revolution or something different? If I’ve bought that book already, why should I buy this one?
I must be clear on this: the first Real Meal book remains, in my opinion, an incredible and almost authoritative introduction to LCHF (low-carb high-fat) eating. If you’re new to the concept of Banting, you pretty much have to buy that book because it gives you all the basic LCHF recipes that you can’t do without, from cauli-rice to courgetinni and all the rest. You also get the detailed science to get your head around making the switch from low-fat to low-carb eating. But the actual dietary advice was quite general and now seems relatively rudimentary.
Real Meal Revolution: Banting 2.0 assumes a level of understanding of LCHF eating and it only touches on the science so that it can focus on nailing the how-to aspect – which is the diet and the lifestyle. The approach is more nuanced and sophisticated yet far easier to follow.
So if you really need an LCHF diet that works because you need to shed kilos or you have specific health concerns, or if you’ve tried Banting and fallen off the wagon, then this is the book for you.
In short, Banting 2.0 is a framework that the Real Meal Revolution company now uses to usher people who want to lose weight and rejuvenate their health into a low-carb healthy-eating lifestyle. It could be seen as our company manifesto.

Can you give some examples of how the “new” Banting 2.0 differs from the original Banting as described in the red book?
Sure. For one, we found that many readers of the original book ended up simply cooking from the book and winging the diet – perhaps there was too much science or we weren’t clear enough. So we’ve tried to be as straightforward and methodical as possible in Banting 2.0. The approach has four phases, with a clear way to calculate how long you should be in each stage, depending on your needs. There’s a starting point and a defined goal, and a large resource of tools to move you forward.
Importantly, we’ve recognised the importance of lifestyle when it comes to health and weight loss. You can’t expect to be optimally healthy if you’re not sleeping well or you’re chronically stressed out. Diet, sleep, exercise and stress management are all linked. Similarly, goal-setting and your mental approach is also critical, so we’ve incorporated these elements as well.
From a technical point of view, we now know how best to Bant to avoid many of the side effects that are common for those who might have gone cold turkey before. In particular, we’ve seen the enormous benefit of restoring gut health to assist with this and to push you through the dreaded plateau. The science on gut health has taken enormous strides in the three short years since the original Real Meal was published and has come to be seen as a fundamental aspect of human health. We follow all the top LCHF and other dietary resources around the world on a daily basis, so we’ve been sure to incorporate all the newest science into our diet. This is probably most noticeable in our new refined lists, which I’m perhaps most proud of. The book is in black and white, but there is a full-colour pull-out of the lists for your fridge – up to date and easy to follow.

The book is written by you “and the Real Meal Revolution team”, without any of the authors from the original book. How are you qualified to write the book?
Great question. The first point to acknowledge is that this was an enormous team effort and I hope that is made prominent enough in the book. The most important thing to remember is that Banting 2.0 is for the most part a summary of all of the feedback we have received from our customers. We had collated it simply for our own team, but the info in it was so valuable that we realised we needed to publish it. We then called in the medical and dietary experts to ensure the science and advice was accurate and properly conveyed.
So the “Real Meal Revolution team” mentioned on the cover of the book includes an LCHF medical expert, a dietitian who has trained and worked in the UK, Australia and South Africa, and numerous members of the company who work with active Banters on a daily basis, have collated the data from thousands of clients and know what works in the real world.
From my personal point of view, I have achieved a world first in endurance swimming and I am a chef with experience in catering at events for thousands of people. I hope that means I’m qualified to offer advice on setting goals, practical eating and writing shopping lists! Beyond that, I’ve been in what is essentially a brand-new health field since the very beginning, and I’ve seen the confusion and problems that it can cause at a user level. But I’m essentially just a name for the company as a whole.

Some people might ask, “Where’s Tim Noakes?” Have you “appropriated” his revolution?
Haha. No, I don’t think I’ve appropriated the revolution at all. Prof certainly gained all the headlines before the original book was even an idea in my head – which is why I approached him in the first place with the plan to make that book – and he drove the publicity of it after publication with amazing stamina and enthusiasm. I think it’s fair to say that without Tim Noakes, the Real Meal Revolution would have sold a fraction of what it did. But I was always intent on owning and developing the Real Meal Revolution brand.

Professor Noakes and “the Real Meal Revolution” are seen to be linked by many in the Banting community. What’s your relationship now and why wasn’t he a part of the new book?
I had the honour of working with Prof on the first two Real Meal Revolution books and on a weekly basis with the business for two years. We’re still in touch but our two organisations parted ways in the middle of 2016, which was understandable given our different priorities and platforms. I would say we both have the same end goal – to change the way South Africa and the world eats – but we were pulling in different directions, and both entities were struggling to achieve what they wanted to within the constraints of a contract we had drafted more than two years before at a stage when we didn’t even know what we wanted to do.
Along the way, the two other original authors have also gone their separate ways. I don’t think LCHF eating is a brand or business priority for David Grier, while Sally-Ann Creed has pursued it in the way that works for her.
I think the Real Meal Revolution brand and Prof will always be linked in people’s heads –as may be expected, given the incredible impact of the original book – but The Noakes Foundation will come to be recognised for its outstanding scientific research while I hope the Real Meal Revolution company will be recognised as the go-to for recipes and lifestyle advice in response to that science (and the science of all the other experts).
Though it was based on a lot of the work we did together, the new book was the company’s first project without Tim. You will notice it is much more consumer-focused and is very light on the science. For the most part, we have referred readers to the experts in the LCHF community, should they wish to find out more.
Readers who need practical advice in changing their lives will benefit from this book in a big way. That was always my personal strength and it’s the company’s strength so we’re now fully focused on it.

This is the third Real Meal Revolution book. How did the writing and production process differ from the others?
Great question.
The original was one massive adrenalin rush. We wrote it in about a month and sent it to print 63 days after starting. Design, photography, writing, editing and the rest was insanely rushed, hugely energised and super fun.
With the second book, Raising Superheroes, we actually published it ourselves, which made sense at the time as it allowed us to retain copyright of all the material involved, among other things. We had the luxury of production values that were off the charts, thanks to the success of the first book, and it was ultimately a lesson in publishing. In the world of publishing, authors often talk about how publishers are a nightmare, while publishers often talk about authors being the nightmare. I found it hugely valuable to see it from both sides. I have the utmost respect for publishers as a result of my experience with Raising Superheroes. It’s an incredible book, it sold over 25,000 copies, which is amazing, and I am extremely proud of it – and I know Prof Noakes is too. But it occupied a lot of our time and energy!
With Banting 2.0, I opted not to publish through Real Meal Revolution. It was easier to hand it over and Burnet Media, who had assisted on Raising Superheroes, did a cracking job. Most importantly, the book does what I wanted it to do: it offers the right advice in the right way. With Banting 2.0, the toughest part of the production was getting the lists to match the right phases, and to offer an approach that was accessible to the different Banting levels. It was something that went back and forth until the minute before the book went to print – and even afterwards! The publishing process allowed us to focus three years of work, research and data gathering into one, unified document.

What do you hope to achieve with Real Meal Revolution: Banting 2.0?
My hope is that the methodology in this book will accelerate the growth of LCHF and Banting as a movement. We have approximately 350 certified Banting coaches around the country and world (and counting) and they’ve taken to the book with great enthusiasm, while individual sales are going well. We’re on to our second print run, and we’ve signed a deal to publish the book internationally through Little, Brown in the UK.
Because the steps are so clear in this book, it makes Banting easier to adopt, thus making it easier to spread. We’re using it to drive the business forward and in time I would like the Real Meal Revolution to affect millions of people around the world.

And where to from here for Real Meal Revolution the company?
The world! We have set a goal to change 100 million lives by 28 February 2025. There aren’t even 100 million South Africans. I see this going global and I don’t want to stop until we reach our target.

• For cover image, author image or more information on the book, contact info@burnetmedia.co.za.
• For more information on the Real Meal Revolution company, contact info@realmealrevolution.com or see www.realmealrevolution.com.

Note to editors: this Q&A is free for use, provided it is accompanied by the information below and that any edits are approved – send to info@burnetmedia.co.za:
• Real Meal Revolution: Banting 2.0 is available in all good bookstores and online. Recommended retail price is R190.

The Man Who Draped His Jacket Over the Alexandra Dam Wall

Early One Sunday Morning

 
NB Publishers has shared an excerpt from Early One Sunday Morning: I Decided To Step Out And Find South Africa, the new book by Luke Alfred.

The chapter is titled “The Man Who Draped His Jacket Over the Alexandra Dam Wall”.

Read the extract:

Constantia Nek via the Overseer’s Cottage and the five Table Mountain dams to the remains of the Kasteelpoort Aerial Cableway and back again – about 15 kilometres

Having climbed about 200 metres above the Constantia Nek parking lot, I stopped to gather my breath.

Summer was creeping from the trees far below, pools of soft yellows and dying greens so various they were difficult to describe. It wasn’t only happening in Tokai and Constantia. Braaing outside one evening before I left Joburg, I was amazed to hear the sound of nearby popping – I couldn’t quite pinpoint from where. The sound was somewhere above me, deep in the trees. It was happening regularly, perhaps in response to the falling temperature, but without rhythm. I listened again. It wasn’t mechanical and it wasn’t that familiar sound of a close-but-faraway woodpecker; neither was it the crazed hammering of a young barbet who often attacked his reflection in a window pane. I sipped my beer, chuckled at my inability to trace the sound, and wondered if I was going slightly mad.

Perhaps invisible children were lobbing acorns onto our tin roof? No, that wasn’t right, but what was it? What on earth could it be? After another puzzled sip, I stalked the sound. The furious pop was coming from splitting wisteria pods, releasing the last of their summer seeds as they fell to the ground. I bent down to examine one: the outer pod was covered in an almost velvet-like skin of olive-green. Inside, the dark wisteria seeds were housed in perfect white hollows like sleepy toddlers eased into a duvet. Back in September I’d started my walk in Pringle country by describing the first heavy fumbling of spring. Now the great river of summer was slowing, dispersing at its end. Up in the darkening sky, the leaves of the stinkwood close to the wisteria were creaking closed like halves of a clam. The walnuts were stretching open their thick green jackets, a sure sign of ripening. Soon our wintertime companions, the rats, would be scrambling for the warmth of the roof.

Autumn was less obvious up on Table Mountain. The fynbos carried on regardless, a kingdom of exquisite miniatures, almost bonsai-like, all delicate pinks and rich reds. I began to notice tiny yellow daisies popping up in the grass that grew between the tracks as I slogged upwards, sometimes on gravel, sometimes on the edge of the concrete slab. In places, dogs had walked in the drying concrete where the jeep track had been repaired. There was something sadly comical about the trail of prints, here one moment, gone the next. I thought about them and why they touched me as they did, as I paused to admire the view. My eye travelled south-east across False Bay to Rooi Els and the faraway pincer of Cape Hangklip. In the middle distance were the cool water ways of Marina da Gama and the bustle of the Muizenberg coast. East of that was the sprawl of the Flats, a milky haze lingering in the air. The morning was still, the few clouds high and silent. It was a wonderful day for a hike.

As I gasped for the summit after about an hour of hard walking, I was passed by about 10 old Mountain Clubbers rolling off the mountain. They were sun-flushed and chirpy, well kitted out in hats and good boots. Two or three pulled themselves along with ski poles. They gave off a good aura, something beyond conviviality or happiness. It had to do with shared experience and made them quietly buoyant, as if they were levitating. As they passed, I heard the bubble of several conversations and then they were gone, spirited away, as if by magic.

Before long I saw the first of the five dams – De Villiers – off to my left. The water level was low, and directly above the high-water mark you could see the almost-white rock of the original dam wall, preserved by the tannin-coloured properties of what was usually a higher water level. The final stripe was almost black, a combination of lichen, pollution and everyday corrosion, but my eye kept on returning to examine the whiteness of the band beneath. This was how it would have pretty much looked when it was built over 100 years ago, the final stone being laid by Sir John Henry de Villiers and various Wynberg councillors in February 1910. It was a glimpse into another time, rare and thrilling. The dog prints were of the same register – traces of what once was, a world gone forever. I am sometimes chilled to wordlessness by such things, yet cannot grope towards understanding with anything but words. The idea that this is all lost, that there were once lives here, and dreams and beating hearts, is sometimes too much for my soul to bear. I think, as I write this, that we might all be born with something like millennial grief. I suspect that I could be more predisposed than others to experiencing it, but certain landscapes surely lend themselves to such feelings more than others. The top-of-themountain tableland, a sort of beautiful outdoor reliquary, full of industrial abandonment and forgotten voices, brought my grief full to the surface. I walked with it as a companion throughout the day.

* * * * *

 

When seen from above, the five dams of what is called the Back Table are not dissimilar in shape to a gigantic question mark, with De Villiers Dam forming the mark’s full stop, angled slightly off to one side. Above that, in the main body of the mark, are Alexandra and Victoria dams and, higher still, Hely-Hutchinson and Woodhead. Named after queens, worthies and mayors, the dams were all built between 1890 and 1910, a response to the growing realisation on the part of City of Cape Town officials that demand for water would soon outstrip supply, a conclusion sharpened by the fact that the middle years of the 1890s were unusually dry ones. Table Mountain and its slopes are, in fact, a network of pipes, tunnels, pump stations and reservoirs. The Woodhead Tunnel, for example, takes water flowing in the Disa River and shoots it off the Back Table above the kramats south of Bakoven.

The water is then channelled back towards Camps Bay along a contour path. If you walk the pipe track (in the opposite direction) from Kloof Nek, you often walk beside these pipes as they transport water via a filtration plant, around the Nek and into the Molteno Reservoir in Oranjezicht. After the tunnel was built, it was embarrassingly realised that the Disa often dried up in summer. The Woodhead Dam was therefore built to supply regular water for the tunnel, which, in turn, fed the Molteno Reservoir, and not the other way round.

Some of the toil and ingenuity that these engineering feats demanded is captured in an album of old black-and-white photographs in the South African Museum, in the Company Gardens. One photograph stands out. It is taken from close to where the Kloof Nek wash houses are today, and shows Lion’s Head in the background. In the foreground is a staging post or temporary camp. We see several two-wheeled trolleys or carts upon which rest a solid wooden base or platform. On this platform lies a massive steel pipe, several metres long. The trolleys have been hauled by faceless teams of African labourers. They all wear gigantic hats and the ropes they’ve been pulling lie curled at their feet. A growing stack of pipes stands next to them in open veld like so many cannon barrels, and everywhere is the spool of dust, f lattened grass and industry, the sharp bite of the African sun on what I would guess is a hot January or February day. A couple of grim Victorian gentlemen with impressive moustaches are standing around, supervising matters. They are wearing pith helmets and breeches, and are dressed as if for hunting or exploration. In some photos they have brought their dogs.

The labour segment between the unsmiling British engineers and the slaves was occupied by professional working men. These were often Welsh or Cornish miners induced to the Cape in search of opportunities just like this. They dug the Woodhead Tunnel and ferried out the rock in cocopans. They also built the brick aqueducts that supported the pipe, clean and neat and expressive of an age when masons and dressers of stone were not far removed from artists.

Each dam has its own shape, design and engineering challenges, although all are broadly similar. Looking down off the De Villiers Dam wall, for example, there appear to be what look like four stone hinges at the base of the wall. They almost look like the flying buttresses one sees in medieval cathedrals, except they’re far smaller, acting as covers, perhaps, for run-off to a small pump house nearby and ultimately down into an indigenous forest on the Hout Bay side of the mountain below. For some unknown reason – perhaps it was the microclimate or the rays of the sun – the dam wall on this side is generally cleaner and appears to have weathered better than the other walls that I looked at deeper into my walk. On closer inspection, I also noticed that the cleanest part of the dam wall on the water side wasn’t entirely white. It was mostly white, sometimes darkening to a gentle cinnamon or biscuit colour. Still, all these dams were handsome structures, built with what I can only describe as love by the masons and engineered with grave, clean dignity by a Scottish civil engineer called Thomas Stewart.

It is not only the gentle curve of the dam walls that captures the imagination. Further along, past the Overseer’s Cottage (and its wild sprawl of button-sized stone roses growing outside) and up a gentle incline lies Alexandra Dam and, head to tail, as it were, Victoria Dam beyond that. You are not meant to swim in these dams or drink their water, the colour of Fanta Orange, but at the thinnest point of Victoria – its ankle, you might say – I stopped to drink and unwrap a sweet.

I found a comfortable rock, enjoyed the shade it provided, and looked east towards the dam wall. Beyond the wall, my eye fell onto the top peaks of the Hottentots Holland range on the other side of False Bay, some 50 kilometres away. I sensed that all the dams were built like this. They were built according to the sturdy principles of functionality but there was always something aesthetically satisfying about them, some soft nod or acknowledgement to the beauty of form.

Beyond that they often snagged in the land in such a way so as not to dwarf the broader environment – and what rose and fell all around. Like an excessively polite visitor loath to intrude, they were not meant to draw attention to themselves. In their restraint and proportion, however, they did the very opposite of what perhaps was intended. You wanted to look again, or look more carefully. It was not only an exercise in watching time up here but it was a long seminar in aesthetics. These dams demanded that you look with hunger, almost acquisitively, and when you had looked for a long while you looked some more.

Once I was up on the Back Table proper, the walking was level and easy. There were no trees up here except for the odd spreadeagled old pine. The fynbos was fragrant and delicate. There were bulrushes and small shrubs, all tiny-leaved and looking vaguely medicinal. This for lumbago, I could imagine some wise Noordhoek hippy telling me, an infusion of this for heart-sickness. Drink tea of such-and-such for ailments of the liver and spleen. A poultice of this for flowery language, perhaps, and this for the writer who suffers from the curse of taking himself too seriously. I busied along, eager for the next dams, the star attractions – Woodhead and Hely-Hutchinson.

I wasn’t disappointed, although best of all were not the dams themselves but the walk between them. You can thread a path at the foot of the Hely-Hutchinson, looking to your left at the wind-ruffled surface of the Woodhead, her dark waters somehow grave and weighty. Up to your right, rising up like the cliff of a canyon is the Hely-Hutchinson wall, bowed and, at eye level, busy with moss, lichen, calcium stains and leaks. As I turned around to draw a brick weir in my notebook, I noticed a black grass snake seeping ghost-like into its hole. A chill brushed over me.

The weir and outlet canal were magnificent, made of the same dressed stone as the dams and quarried nearby. There were weeds and grasses growing in its cracks now but there was something monumental here, and so pleasing. A vision perhaps or at least a philosophy. It made me want to know more about Stewart and the men who laid every lump of stone, each one painstakingly dressed, each one subtly different. As I walked through the non-existent shadow of the dam wall (I somehow imagine, now, in recollection, that there was shadow), I noticed that each block of stone had a depression in it, like a belly-button. Each small hollow was equidistant from the long sides, and no matter what the dimensions or shape of the block it was almost always in the same place. As I examined a block of stone, my eye passed upwards to something snagging on the edge of my peripheral vision. Two large crows were standing imperiously on the dam wall railings. Seen from below, they looked large and unusually menacing. Later in the afternoon, as I climbed off the mountain, I noticed them again, tumbling carelessly above the slopes. There were now three and they played in the wind without care or sorrow. ‘Listening to the crows and wind,’ I remember texting my wife, now that the cellphone signal was restored as I edged off the Back Table after nearly six hours’ walking to the Constantia Nek parking lot.

Beyond the far edge of the Hely-Hutchinson reservoir wall (to judge from the inlaid plaques on the walls they are properly called reservoirs) is a small waterworks museum, now closed. The museum is surrounded by steam cranes with massive blackened boilers and large pieces of heavy machinery, wheels and bogies. I struggled to read the maker’s name on the crane, but could just make out the words ‘JM Wilson and Company, Liverpool’. I walked around, peering through the windows and reading the artefacts’ captions upside down.

There was a carbide miner’s lamp, some old-fashioned scales and a ship’s bell: ‘This was mounted outside the resident engineer’s office above the Woodhead Reservoir. (This later became the Waterworks Overseer’s home.) The bell was used to ring out the daily working hours during the construction of the two dams.’

Pride of place in the museum goes to a small narrow-gauge steam engine imported from Kilmarnock in Scotland. Material, including cement in casks, also imported from Scotland, was initially transported from the Kasteelpoort Aerial Cableway in miniature trucks pulled by mules. Later, the engine was imported, dismantled at the foot of the cableway and then reassembled once the parts had reached the top. The route it followed from the edge of the mountain can be walked from the waterworks museum, past the stone quarry and behind the Mountain Club hut, which occupies a bluff overlooking the Woodhead Dam. Continue further past the three old pines, and the jeep track seems to follow almost perfectly the curve of what was once the railway line.

You can see the rubble-raised corners and the straights. Alongside the track are slightly raised concrete platforms, now weathered and overgrown with bushes and fynbos. Worker compounds were apparently erected on these platforms. There was even a kraal for animals. Workers, including the Cornish masons, Welsh miners and Pondo labourers, lived here for about three years, as did Stewart, living on this subtle tableland as he supervised the completion of the Woodhead. Today there is evidence everywhere of human habitation – some of it fairly recent. There are three or four old boarded-up houses and a cloying air of gentle melancholy.

At the end of a slight curve, with the Atlantic glistening at your feet, are the remnants of the Kasteelpoort Aerial Cableway. Not much remains. There is a rectangular stone blockhouse, which was probably used to house the winching equipment, and you can see holes in the walls through which the cable wire passed. Peer over the edge and you can see old timber slats bolted into the rock face. These were probably used to anchor or direct the cables – possibly to protect them. Looking about, hearing the surge of the wind in your ears, it is impossible not to marvel at the mad audacity of what you have just seen. It all has a slight sandcastles-in-the-sand type feel. Soon enough, a final high tide is going to wash away the last remains for ever.

There is a photograph loitering on the internet of Stewart and a colleague being pulled up from Camps Bay in the Kasteelpoort lift. The men are close to the top and both look upwards, directly at the camera, neither looking happy. It’s not entirely surprising: the lift or basket amounts to nothing more than a rudimentary cage with wooden planks for a floor. One can imagine the horror of a wind-buffeted descent or the awkwardness of having to share the limited space with some small but vital piece of equipment. Still, such journeys might have been relatively infrequent, because Stewart spent all of the three years required to build the Woodhead with his engineers and labourers up on the mountain. By the time the Hely-Hutchinson was needed, however, he’d had enough and decided to get married, spending most of his time in the suburbs below. Trips onto the Back Table became rare. Having recommended several good sites for natural catchment closer to the Constantia Nek side of the mountain, he might even have decided to have walked the route that I just had – climbing onto the Back Table via the zigzag path and the jeep track from the Constantia Nek saddle.

Although it is a beautiful structure, the Woodhead Dam’s contribution to solving Cape Town’s water problems was negligible. At the end of the 1890s, the demand for water from the city and its adjoining municipalities (like Wynberg) had spiked. There were various reasons for this state of affairs. The upgrade and extension of the local sewerage scheme demanded far more water than had hitherto been the case.

Winter rains were also poor during the immediately preceding period, and there was an influx of visitors, soldiers and refugees because of the upcountry Boer War. Folk were clearly drinking themselves silly. This being the case, the authorities impressed upon Stewart the need for another dam, and this became the Hely-Hutchinson, built with largely the same crew, living in the original compound. ‘As a matter of practical importance the construction [of Hely-Hutchinson] could be carried out from the existing camp,’ he wrote in a report to the council, noting that after surveying the area once again, he had identified locations for further dams. In time, these became the Victoria, Alexandra and De Villiers dams, all three serving the flush and bumptious Wynberg Municipality, which had yet to be incorporated into the greater Cape Town metropole.

After inspecting the Kasteelpoort structure, I walked back towards the Mountain Club hut, tugging down on my cap every so often to prevent it from being blown off my head. I’d frozen water overnight and now downed what remained, nestling into a perfect hollow between two craggy pine roots as I sat down to munch nuts and dried pears. Up above, the pine branches creaked and drifted in the wind, and I sunk into bliss. As I sat in this perfect chair and ate in this perfect outdoor restaurant, I cast an eye over my immediate surroundings. Off to my right, a couple of metres away, there was a patch of grass that looked almost level enough to accommodate my tent. I fantasised about whether I would get away with it. My morning had been dogged by a white Cape Nature bakkie nosing along the jeep track to open sluices and transport hikers’ equipment to and from the Overseer’s Cottage, rented out to groups for the night. They had passed me four or five times and might head this way again, although I somehow doubted it. At nightfall, having made sure the mountain was empty, I’d pitch my tent, haul out some boerewors or steak, build the small fire that, if found, would see me fined or imprisoned.

Of course, I did nothing of the sort. I finished my supplies, becoming just slightly morose as I realised what I could have been eating. In my mind’s eye I conjured up a fresh white roll, fat with cheese and mayonnaise. I was happy and relaxed and content yet I was also none of these things because, as I heaved a final handful of raw nuts into my mouth, I was dissatisfied. No, I was more than that: I was discontented.

Indeed, I was sinking – quite rapidly – into a little strop of discontent. I was spoiled, I knew it. I was also, more importantly, underprepared. Our sons were always laughing at what they saw as my hopeless propensity for thrift, which manifested itself most obviously in undercatering. Now I was undercatering for myself. This was emotional terrorism of the worst kind. There are those who cater well and are therefore happy, which was my homespun version of René Descartes’s famous dictum. Yet here I was, undercatered for and therefore unhappy. It was the perfect booby trap because I could do nothing about it either, which made me realise that I must – at some level – like being unhappy.

Perhaps even being unhappy, perversely, made me happy, although, of course, we could spin this out in a different way, which was that being unhappy, given that I had undercatered, simply deepened my unhappiness. This was a sobering thought, a more sobering thought than the relatively straightforward recognition that I had undercatered. Was this the perfect definition of the postmodern condition – the idea that even in our quiet reveries, the rare periods in which we are at our most content and happy, we are, in fact, unhappy, and unhappy for no more compelling reason than we are forever wanting what we can’t and don’t have. So that’s it, is it? Our post-industrial, privileged lives are no more than high-wire balancing acts, with the possibility of happiness stretched thinly before us and the great chasm of unhappiness beckoning everywhere else. Maybe such feelings aren’t confined to our current epoch. Perhaps all people, across time, have lusted after what they can’t have, for this is what differentiates the human from the animal. It seems that animals are at one with their appetites, whereas we humans are never spiritually reconciled. We are forever snagged on the horns of better alternatives, always having to deal with the worm of dissatisfaction.

Yet was this quite right? I was behaving pretty much like an animal now, wasn’t I, worrying about base instincts, like hunger? I might have been trapped in the Escher-like stairway of my own thoughts but, at the instinctual level, I was still an animal. Perhaps this was it – we were all unhappy animals, were we not? Despite my feelings of being hard done by food-wise, I realised that as I packed up and resumed my way, I was boundlessly and stupidly happy. As I started my gentle downward climb, I noticed that the lunchtime heat was softened by a growing wind. I walked back towards the gorgeous bow of a footpath at the base of the Hely-Hutchinson Dam wall and looked around with renewed vigour. I passed wild geranium. The flowers were mauve and everywhere the geranium’s leaves were dusted with a furzy down. I marvelled at their hardy longevity and skipped on, noticing that clouds were now scudding in from the south-west. More and more of them poured in as the afternoon shadows grew longer, and eventually they covered the Silvermine mountains with a shifting blanket of cloud. As I walked past the Hely-Hutchinson wall, I noticed that water was being released into the Woodhead through a masonry culvert. It was folding at my feet, frothing in great creamy bubbles like freshly poured Guinness, as it made its way through marshy ground and eventually into the shallow reaches of its partner dam alongside. I barrelled on, walking briskly. There was no one on the mountain any more, and I had it all to myself. I walked brazenly into the cloud-littered afternoon.

Before long, I came alongside the two middle dams. I wasn’t entirely sure, but one of the old black-and-white photographs I’d seen on an earlier trip to the National Library showed the workings on either the Alexandra or Victoria Dam wall. Above the dam wall, supported by a lattice of pine slats, was a substantial wooden bridge. The tracks held a steam crane, which ran to and fro on rails approximately the length of the wall itself. Below the dam wall was another set of rails, supporting a rudimentary platform upon which rested a second, less powerful crane or winch. The dam wall, growing upwards and surprisingly thick, stretched between the upper and lower railway lines. According to some of the research I had done, the dam walls were often filled with rubble masonry, then ‘faced with dressed stone’. This one must have been 10 metres thick, so comfortable that it supported loads of recently quarried rock, as well as two large groups of workers. I noticed that a couple of labourers had removed their dark jackets and had hung them casually over the top of the dam wall. Looking more carefully still, I noticed that one mason was in the midst of draping his jacket over the dam wall as the photograph was being taken. He was wearing a hat and his face was shrouded in shadow, but the act was unmistakable. These were days before the advent of institutional uniforms and overalls, when men wore waistcoats, hats and jackets to work. Who was this refugee from the gloom of the past? How exactly did his labours have an impact on the project and its completion? I couldn’t help myself, and ached to know more. Where was he from? What were his loves and private reveries? Placing a jacket on a dam wall was an act so careful, so intimately human, that I found it touching. The dams were all named and celebrated, Stewart and his fellow engineers feted and recognised, but who speaks for the massed dignity of the casually forgotten? Who lights a candle for the nameless man in the black hat placing his jacket on a dam wall in an act so everyday that he did it both carefully and without thought. Where did he go to when he got off the mountain? I imagine he had his boots shined, afterwards sauntering into an Adderley Street bar, where the barman pulled him a pint. With a steady hand he took his drink to a quiet table, the quietest corner of the bar.

He sipped from the beer’s head, took out paper and a fountain pen from his jacket pocket and closed his eyes, better to imagine his wife’s fragrance. Sun was wafting through a far-off window, he could almost feel it on his skin. He thought of her laughter and the way she lowered her eyes when he teased her. He remembered the mole on the nape of her neck and began to write her his weekly letter.

Book details

Nostalgies, humoristies en hartroerend: Wat die hart van vol is deur Peter Veldsman en Elmari Rautenbach

Wat die hart van vol isWat die hart van vol is: Herinneringsreise van ‘n fynkok deur Peter Veldsman, met Elmari Rautenbach, is nou beskikbaar by Penguin:

’n Wydlopende herinneringsreis, deurspek met staaltjies, deur een van ons land se fynkospioniers …

Met erfeniskos wat deesdae internasionaal hoogmode is, staan een kok uit: Peter Veldsman. As enigste kind op ’n plaas in die Klein-Karoo het Peter ’n fyn waarnemingsvermoë en goddelose sin vir humor ontwikkel. Die resultaat is eindeloos vermaaklike stories oor die kos en mense in sy lewe, van sy dae as kosredakteur van die tydskrif Sarie, waar Peter twee generasies Afrikaanse vroue voor die stoof touwys gemaak het, toe as kosskrywer van Rapport en, uiteindelik, as “Mister V”, eienaar van Emily’s, waar hy hom amper 20 jaar lank beywer het om van streekskos fynkos te maak en só ’n formidabele restaurant-nalatenskap gevestig het.

Baie van die stories is snaaks. Ander is soet-nostalgies. Sommige kyk eerlik na kwessies ná aan sy hart, soos gay-wees en die kerk. En tog, al het hy al vir bekendes en selfs beroemdes gekook en die wêreld deurkruis op soek na nuwe smake, is dit sy tante Julia en haar “koskys” wat hy steeds die helderste voor die oog roep, sy Skotse ouma, en die dag toe hy as ’n vierjarige op sy oupa se plaas in die Klein-Karoo die eerste keer ’n doukomkommer tussen sy tande geknars het …

Nostalgies, humoristies en hartroerend – ’n boek wat jou terugvat na Ouma se kombuis, maar dan ook die drumpel oor, na die wye wêreld daarbuite.

Boekbesonderhede

Communities utilising land for their own benefit: Lenin Street Market Garden in Alexandra holds a planting day

Communities utilising land for their own benefit: Lenin Street Market Garden in Alexandra holds a planting day

 
The Great South African CookbookThe Lenin Street Market Garden in Alexandra recently held a planting day. The community garden – which used to be a dumping site – is a beneficiary of the sales from The Great South African Cookbook, published by Quivertree Publications.

Partners and sponsors of the garden include the Nelson Mandela Foundation, City of Joburg, Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA), Quivertree and Urban Fresh, the two-man company in charge of garden sales.

Communities utilising land for their own benefit: Lenin Street Market Garden in Alexandra holds a planting day

 

Started in 2011, the Lenin Street Market Garden has received various support from a number of organisations and held different farming and gardening initiatives. But it was time to “kickoff” intensive training, said Robin Hills from the FTFA food garden department. The training would do two things, Hills said. Lessen the garden’s dependency on outside sources and increase output.

“A lot of these activities continue, but they continue in separate little silos. The cookbook has kind of brought it all together. Because it’s like now we’ve got to focus. So this is the kickoff.”

Communities utilising land for their own benefit: Lenin Street Market Garden in Alexandra holds a planting day

 
Among the book’s contributors in attendance were former True Love food editor Dorah Sitole and Johannesburg-based chef David Higgs.

The response the cookbook was receiving has been “amazing”, Higgs said, adding that, “I love the simplicity of the book. It’s easy reading. And everybody can do it.”

Communities utilising land for their own benefit: Lenin Street Market Garden in Alexandra holds a planting day

 
Urban Fresh, the garden’s brains and in charge of sales, joined the garden in April. And had done a lot of work to transform the place.

Co-owner Fazlur Pandor talked about the actions they had undertaken since joining. The garden had been a dumping site before.

“We’ve gone to a lot of effort to clean the soil first. When it started, it wasn’t like this. We’ve come a long way. We do soil tests. And we make sure it’s actually safe. We add compost and manure.”

Communities utilising land for their own benefit: Lenin Street Market Garden in Alexandra holds a planting day

 
Business partner Rogan Field outlined Urban Fresh’s future plans – packaging and processing tomatoes “properly”.

“Eventually, we want to look into value adding, making chili sauces.”

A cold room in the garden premises gave them an advantage over other co-operatives in their network, Field said. However this was no reason for Urban Fresh to “outcompete” them, he said.

Communities utilising land for their own benefit: Lenin Street Market Garden in Alexandra holds a planting day

 
“Rather to say that this project now must outcompete the other projects, how do we incorporate this project so they can support each other?”

At the garden’s initial opening in 2011, former Joburg Mayor Parks Tau said that communities had no excuses not to utilise land for their own benefit.

“There can be no justification for anyone in Johannesburg to go to bed hungry when there is space that people can use to produce vegetables for their own consumption,” he said at the time.

Communities utilising land for their own benefit: Lenin Street Market Garden in Alexandra holds a planting day

 
Five years later, the garden now supports 28 employees.

While Urban Fresh talked about expanding their network – currently they supply crops to surrounding establishments – Pandor said “building the trust of the community” was more important than maximising their production levels.

“It’s about building the trust of the community,” Pandor said, “It’s about developing a little bit of skills. So we’re not hugely focused right now on achieving maximum production. For the last six months it’s really about just engaging and solidifying our space.”

Pandor’s brother Haroon criticised people who loved calling for “land grab”. If the people were serious, they would, perhaps, plant tomatoes, he said.

Communities utilising land for their own benefit: Lenin Street Market Garden in Alexandra holds a planting day

 
Lungile Sojini (@success_mail) tweeted live from the event:

Book details

Tim Noakes joins Penguin Random House South Africa authors to make Banting more affordable

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Penguin Random House South Africa (PRHSA) is proud to announce that Professor Tim Noakes will co-write his next Banting book with PRHSA authors Bernadine Douglas and Bridgette Allan.

The Banting Pocket Guide will be published in partnership with The Noakes Foundation (TNF) early in 2017.

Noakes, who started the Banting revolution in South Africa, and TNF are passionate about making the Banting lifestyle affordable and accessible to all South Africans. Douglas and Allan share this objective and have already made the low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet more inclusive with their books The Banting Solution and Die Banting-oplossing, published early in 2016.

The Banting SolutionDie Banting-oplossing

 
The Banting Pocket Guide will be user-friendly and provide all the tips and advice readers will need to start, successfully conclude and maintain their Banting diet. It will also offer more affordable solutions and include products that are more accessible to people of all walks of life. The author trio and TNF are also planning further Banting titles in this line with PRHSA.

On his decision to join PRHSA and The Banting Solution authors Douglas and Allan, Noakes says:

The focus of TNF’s Eat Better South Africa! campaign is to take the Banting Revolution to all South Africans. I am very appreciative of the chance to partner with Bernadine and Bridgette to advance our common goal – to help all South Africans understand that what we eat each day is a key determinant of our long-term health. This book provides practical information of how we can eat high-quality, healthy foods, even on a restricted food budget.

PRHSA is thrilled to have TNF on board. The foundation is a non-profit corporation founded for public benefit. Its aims are to advance medical science’s understanding of the benefits of a LCHF diet by providing evidence-based information on optimum nutrition that is free from commercial agenda. Jayne Bullen, manager of TNF says: “We are excited about this new partnership to support dietary changes needed in all populations with a clear message of Ubuntu behind it. Noakes’s proceeds from this book will go towards the TNF’s Eat Better South Africa!”

Douglas and Allan feel very privileged to have Noakes and his foundation involved in their next book. Allan said: “With the involvement of Tim and his fantastic team I am tremendously excited at the potential that The Banting Pocket Guide has to improve health across South Africa.” Douglas added: “It’s an absolute honour to have Prof. Noakes and The Noakes Foundation on board to take a healthy lifestyle to the next level.”

PRHSA is also looking forward to publishing the follow-up to Noakes’s Challenging Beliefs in 2017. The new book will include more on the LCHF diet and the highly controversial HPCSA trial.

Book details

  • Die Banting-oplossing: Jou laekoolhidraat-gids vir permanente gewigsverlies by Bernadine Douglas, Bridgette Allan
    EAN: 9781776090365
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