Chasing the light in black and white

With the Natal Midlands behind us, we headed west, toward the northern Drakensberg, for the final three nights of our holiday meander. We’d booked ourselves a cottage at the Berg House, high on a hillside overlooking the magnificent Amphitheatre in the distance, up a winding dirt road that twisted and climbed and simply called out for the Land Rover. Not a place for city cars, for sure, but with careful driving we got up there, and were suitably rewarded. Here is a shot of Rob, with the vast sweep of the Drakensberg before us; and here are three black and […]

‘Detroit’ – Distilled

‘Detroit,’ it could be argued, is the story of race and racism in America, bursting onto our screens at a painful moment in America’s painful history. Think Charlottesville, think of Trump’s pardoning of Sheriff Arpaio, think of – how many? – black motorists in towns across the US pulled over and shot for some (sometimes imagined) traffic offence. But this movie, of course, is set fifty years ago, in 1967, during the Detroit riots: that tells you something right there, doesn’t it? Focusing close-up, in almost unbearable detail, on the murder by police of three young black men at the […]

Ardmore Ceramic Art, Midlands Meander

Ok, so you’ve meandered through the Natal Midlands, you’ve stopped off for a coffee, or a glass of wine at Ardington Winery, you’ve pulled over to take photos of hills, of valleys, of dairy cows contentedly doing whatever it is that dairy cows do on an August morning or afternoon, and then you turn down a winding dirt road, and swing off into a driveway, and there – across a placid pond and beneath the bucolic hills in the distance – what do you find? You find the wildest, craziest, most lunatically imaginative art at Ardmore Ceramics. Now, if you […]

‘Dunkirk’ – Distilled

A technical tour de force but an artistic failure, ‘Dunkirk’ contrives to combine cheesy dialogue and cardboard characterisation with the terror and immediacy of war and violence. You are in the cockpit of a stricken Spitfire as it swerves towards the grey greasy ┬áChannel and ditches; trapped in the cockpit, you struggle for breath as its sinking pilot bangs frantically on the glass above him, fighting to get out as the water rises. Or you are in the bowels of a bombed or torpedoed ship, as exhausted soldiers fight their way towards the exits. The story follows three narratives, telling […]

Hillfold Pottery, Midlands Meander

You reach Lindsay Scott’s Hillfold Pottery in Lidgetton in the Natal Midlands by following a dirt road into the hills, climbing through forest, then turning off down a narrow rutted track that makes you wonder why, oh why, do you no longer have the Landy, until suddenly the woodland opens and you are in a sunny clearing where a low bungalow awaits, and the studio beckons. The man himself was there, reserved but gracious, and while he might have been of few words the work spoke volumes. We bought a piece for ourselves, and one or two smaller pieces for […]

Midlands Meander

The Midlands Meander in KwaZulu Natal – well, meanders, criss-crossing the N3 that links Johannesburg to Durban, offering the traveller a network of scenic routes that winds through hills and valleys as it folds into its embrace potteries and chocolatiers, breweries and cheese-makers, leather workers and artists. It is the land of dairy – and, along a nondescript stretch of the old Johannesburg road, beside the railway line not far from Howick, the area where Mandela was captured, in August 1962, following a tip-off, it is believed, from the CIA – those friends of democracy everywhere. These images, I hope, […]

Not such good bird photos

Bird photography is one of the most challenging areas of photography, at least in my experience. Finding them in the first place – birds, I mean – and getting them to sit still, or hover in one place, just where you want them, is the damnedest business, never mind getting your images sharp and properly saturated. Nevertheless, we spent one idyllic morning between two bird hides on a farm in the Karkloof, hoping to see cranes, but seeing instead grey herons, spoonbills, ibis, and – away in the distance, perched on the topmost branches of a tree before launching into […]

The Natal Midlands: Two Gates and a Landscape

Two sets of gates on Beverley Farm, in the Dargle Valley; two interpretations. The one gothic, the other more bucolic. The landscape shows the Karkloof, where we spent a lovely morning hiding in bird hides, on a farm, hoping for cranes.

Trees, Beverley Farm, Dargle Valley

We left Johannesburg on the last Saturday in July, around ten o’clock, for a much-needed break – five nights in the Natal Midlands, followed by three nights in the Drakensberg. The traffic was light, the day was sunny, the wind was at our backs as we drove across the highveld, stopping at Harrismith for lunch, before descending the escarpment. We turned off the N3 near Howick, not far from Pietermaritzburg, passing the Mandela capture site, of which more in a future post. A short while later we turned off the old Joburg road, the R104, towards the Dargle Valley, and […]

Lunch with my mother

My mother, at 85, likes a good lunch, and likes to be spoiled. Cucina Labia, the official home of Count Labia, envoy to South Africa of the little Italian dictator, Mussolini (Trump’s clownish forebear) ticked all the boxes when we went there – appropriately enough – on Women’s Day, last Wednesday. ‘I like this. I like this. I can do this,’ my mum kept repeating. Here are two photos of her – still pretty sharp, I’d say, at her age. The photo of the ladies doing lunch, at a Women’s Day fundraiser, helps establish the scene and the ambience. The […]