Sucker for punishment

An “owl and a pussy cat tale kept buzzing through my head last night, sparked off by attending a wine tasting at Eagles’ Nest for my first visit there in years.

The 38ha farm, dating back to 1836, is cradled in a secluded, wind-protected valley high on the slopes of the Constantia mountain range.

On our arrival on a still Saturday morning an unexpected gentle breeze caused thousands of yellow diamond-shaped leaves from tall cottonwoods to flutter down like snowflakes. It was a most beautiful sight and sound.
Some leaves fell among our glasses on the tasting tables and others covered the green lawn where visiting children ran around trying to catch them.

I later learnt that we were getting a taste of a glorious autumnal “fall”.
In deciduous trees like cottonwoods, the petiole (which connects the leaf to the plants) lose their leaves in an unusually dramatic fashion.

Eagles’ Nest has changed a great deal since the days when owned by Connell Maggs, and there was no security guard at the gate. We would drive up a dark narrow lane to the cosy rented cottage for dinner with Jos Baker, (journalist, food lover, wine critic and fashion fundi) and her husband (photographer and yachtsman) David Baker.

The highlight was always to see Archie, their pet Eagle Owl, who before they built a large outside aviary, lived on top of their old-fashioned loo cistern.

This unnerved male guests trying to relieve themselves under the implacable stare of a large owl.

The owl, rescued by Jos when it fell out of its nest on the Constantia Nek Road, was their pride and joy for 12 happy and interesting years. One of their (private) party tricks was when the owl shared a bubble bath with Jos.

It would walk along the edge of the bath, then jump on to her raised knees which she would gently lower so the owl could have a proper dip.

Because of its love of water they named it Archie after Archimedes, the ancient Greek mathematician who discovered the famous principle about what happens when a body – even that of a female Eagle Owl –is immersed in water….

The reading cat

The pussy cat tale is how in 2001 Cleo, a young mother cat with kittens living in a Wynberg block of flats where animals were not permitted, came to be the much- loved Tokai library cat.

However, her second owner, Michelle van der Merwe, had to wait to relate the full story.

First we had to pay attention to Durran Cornhill, Eagles’ Nest winemaker, who told us how the Mylrea family, who’d bought Eagles’ Nest in 1984, had only switched to winegrowing after the devastating mountain fire in 2000 had destroyed everything except the historic buildings.

They’d selected varieties that best suited the terroir of Eagles’ Nest and it was the pleasant duty of the Wine Tasters’ Guild to sample and discuss their creamy 
2017 viognier, merlot from the 2012 to 2014 vintages and the shiraz from 2013 to 2015.
Only after we’d enjoyed our generous charcuterie platters was Michelle able to complete the tale of how Cleo’s kittens had been snapped up but nobody wanted their mother. Until the Van der Merwe family stepped in.

Every day Cleo and her kitten Hazelnut played in the parking lot of the library next door until one day the pretty kitten disappeared, probably stolen.

That’s when lonely Cleo started going every day to the library 
to look for her offspring. In time she became a favourite visitor and eventually she was formally adopted by the library staff where her name changed to Cloe.

She enjoyed a good life well-looked after by the staff and petted by the public, until her death from old age a few years ago.

Round and round we go

Round three of the three-way stop saga:
A reader writes that the correspondent who pointed out that the “first come, first served” procedure was correct, had unfortunately 
not covered the numerous occasions when two vehicles arrived simultaneously at the respective 3 way/4 way stop.

“Whether it’s to be found in the Road Ordinance or not (which I imagine a perusal in depth will be the case), the practice of yielding to the right in the above situations has worked for over 50 years.

“Let’s not get into the 
unfortunate fact of the present day practice of more often than not ignoring the stops in the first place.”

Well said.

Noticing the toads

Recently I commented on the notice which had been left on a Lismore Avenue pole since last August, asking motorists to look out for leopard toads going a-wooing to Die Oog. Two days later it was gone… but then reappeared pinned to a tree in Maryland Avenue near the river.

Whoever moved the notice must be an optimist or else has a crystal ball. According to a Bergvliet resident Die Oog now looks worse that it did when I wrote about it on 
May 10. Even the coots seem to have abandoned their nests as there is nothing left to eat in the remaining puddle.

Some weeks ago she noticed that a large red and white koi fish had been dumped in the dam.

When she last saw it the fish was thrashing about, taking its last gasps in a few centimetres of muddy water.

Hopefully the recent rains have made a difference to the water level at Die Oog because it is a joy to 
see that the river in the Tokai plantation is flowing again.

There is even enough water for the dogs to swim in “their” swimming pool — something they have not been able to do for months.

Sucker for punishment

Marriage is a lot like the army. Everyone complains but you’d be surprised how many re-enlist.

fionachisholm@iafrica.com