Vintage poised for long-distance surprise

When the three Chisholm sisters were kids, we upset our poor mother by singing at the top of our voices in the car she was nervously driving, all 10 verses of that old nursery and counting rhyme Ten Green Bottles Hanging on the Wall.

I was reminded of that the other day when a friend was telling me about the 10 wine bottles she wants to send from Tokai to her nephew in Switzerland, hopefully without any falling off the wall.

They are 10 precious bottles of one of South Africa’s most famous dessert wines, Klein Constantia’s Vin de Constance worth R3 400.

The wine made its way into 19th century literature through the writings of both Charles Dickens and Jane Austen who recommended its “healing powers for a disappointed heart”.
On a visit to Cape Town in 1996, said Swiss nephew bought a 12-bottle case of that current vintage which he left in the care of his mother, promising to take it back to Switzerland next time he came to see her. Somehow that never happened and 20 years passed.

This spring he returned, opened a bottle, thought the wine past its best “because it had not been stored properly” and poured the contents down the sink.

He then offered the 11 bottles to his aunt in Tokai “to keep, drink or throw away…”
Instead she took a bottle to Klein Constantia Winery to ask their opinion. Was it over the hill? The staff seemed reluctant to open the wine, perhaps knowing that the 1996 vintage now sells for R3 400 a bottle…but if left another 10 years could fetch as much as R7 000 as does the 1986.

However she insisted… and from the joyous expressions she knew that the wine was in fine condition – a view she and her husband support after slowly savouring the rest of the opened bottle.

In spite of all the offers from friends to help drink the remaining 10 bottles, she’s determined to send the rest of the case to her lucky nephew in Switzerland. What a treat awaits him from a very special aunt!

Breaking boundaries

Property owners in the Constantia Valley are usually house-proud and many like to extend their gardens beyond the front gate or fence with clipped grass and rows of agapanthus to add a touch of blue in summer.
However the ground does not belong to them and they should be careful never to make it difficult for pedestrians to pass in front of their properties.

A local Tokai resident is upset by the owners of a house in Lismore Road who recently paved the full width of the pavement in front of their home with uneven cobble stones which she finds difficult to walk on. They have since made a garden of succulents and prickly aloes next to the cobbles forcing her to walk on the road at the busy corner of Lismore and Maryland Avenues.

It’s a spot used by turning cars, kids on bicycles and dog walkers on the way to the Lower Tokai Park.
She has lodged a complaint with the Tokai Ratepayers’ Association but she is hoping that in the interest of good neighbourliness the owners of the house will resolve the problem themselves. By replacing some of the cobbles with a smooth bricked path suitable for pedestrians, they would still have a large enough space under cobbles to park their cars which they say they cannot accommodate in their garden.

Flocking flamingos

After I mentioned seeing a flock of beautiful flamingos in flight from the parking lot of the Vincent Pallotti Hospital, Mike Manson-Smith from Bergvliet wrote to tell me about the flock of between 12 and 20 flamingos which for the past three of months have been feeding daily on Dreyersdal Farm’s vlei.

Depending on which side of the vlei they are feeding, they are sometimes only 20m away from the road.
Unfortunately, with the water drying up rapidly, they will soon be looking for greener, or rather wetter pastures.

Moving play

Attending last week’s opening night of Graham Weir’s acclaimed one-man play Dead Yellow Sands at the Baxter’s Golden Arrow Theatre, drove home just how student protests have affected campus activities.

The Baxter outside and inside was eerily quiet with only one show in the normally busy theatre. The College of Music was without life, lights or cars. And a theatre staffer whispered to me how anxious everybody had been about the danger of a fire.

This was not the ideal atmosphere in which to appreciate Weir’s outstanding performance as he brought to life, without aid of wigs or costume changes, a group of rather sad characters – poor, homeless, dying and blind.

There was humour in some of his stories but the mood, created by his Methuselah appearance –black suit, dim lighting – was rather melancholy.

The unusual title of the play refers to the sands churned up from under the surface by the mines around Benoni where Weir grew up.

In the opening lines, he tells you more about that place where “in the dry winter months, the sad wind would blow dead yellow sands over the surrounding suburbs and people would complain of chest pains…”

His autobiographical piece focuses more on his early adulthood than on his childhood. I thought his empathy for the lives of those marginalised in society gave the audience a clearer insight than they’ve ever had before of the man, mind and heart behind the actor Graham Weir.

Lights out?

Have you heard about the blonde who spent five minutes hunting for her phone in the car, using her phone as a torch?

fionachisholm@iafrica.com