Yesterday Una and I went down to the sprawling village of Somerset West in the Herlderberg Valley together, coming over Sir Lowry’s Pass and looking at the blue of the bay like turqouise, veined with dark waves.
Sorting out foreign currency exchange just as hideous as expected, watching money dwindle in global terms. Handing over precious and hard-earned rands and seeing a small handful of pounds sterling emerge in exchange. Swallowing hard.
But then we went to lunch together and ate sushi and I watched Una shout when the wasabi hit her palate. Such fun — we laughed and ordered one exquisite plate after another. Icy mineral water and fresh fresh salmon, tiny rolls of sticky rice entrapped in nori seaweed, side dishes of pink pickled ginger and pale green wasabi. I would have liked more adventurous sushi or sashimi, but for that we would have needed a more upmarket and chic restaurant. The big plus here was that the fish was fresh and trustworthy, the rolls well-prepared and everything had a tang. Hungry office-workers dashing in and out, tourists in rapture, families on holiday ordering large platters of sushi rolls to eat like snacks. Una very happy, dipping the mouthfuls in Kikkoman soy very solemnly, picking out eel, and salmon with avocado and caviar, shredded crab with spring onions, disappointed we couldn’t get chilli and garlic flash-fried scallops. Plenty of deep red tuna but too rich for me.
All the way home, driving past reddening pin oaks and white poplars and dark black-green Cape chestnut trees, barlinka vines like copper smoke in the vineyards, her tummy roared for more food. She said she wished she had opted for a hamburger. And when she got home she put thickly sliced ciabatta in the oven to toast and sliced ripe tomatoes and sweet red onion. along with goat’s cheese: a gourmet and a gourmand. I had green tea and felt virtuous. I have to get into a pair of denims by Tuesday.
And the autumn is fully present, the village copper and gold. I watch oak branches emerge across the field as leaves fall, mulch plants with layers of musky deep brown and red leaves which will rot in rain. The skies are mild and a pale blue streaked wth milky cloud. The first snow has yet to fall on the mountaintops.
It feels like an estrangement to leave this ripening season to go into a new spring. Fearful and taking a deep breath full of humus and humility and the damask scent of autumn roses, old and soft and tumbling like scattered scraps of dusty pink and gold silk.
Beauty is there — the peace and joy of some days — but to broaden life to embrace what is harder. That way I appreciate the calmer days more deeply. And all of this sober and gentle.