And what a magnificent red moon that was in northern skies – out here we didn’t get to see the eclipse but the videos gave me some idea.
The brother-in-law of a friend popped in on his way up to Keurbooms near Plettenberg Bay. He is very fond of me and said coyly that he had a gift for me. Flowers, I thought happily. Or a book.
‘Yo,’ he said. ‘Here are three fresh ox tongues for you.’
Mary: ‘Gosh. Thanks very much.’
So the ox tongues are now pickling in brine.
Recipe for pickling brine in crisis situations
4 litres water
12 black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
12 juniper berries, coarsely crushed
small bunch thyme
3 fresh bay leaves
6g saltpetre (I go for less at times but better safe than sorry)
735g sea salt
500g soft dark brown sugar
Nothing gets wasted out here in the heart of the country. And I am going to make a mustard sauce, perhaps with capers. The fridge is crammed with buckets of ox tongue, which does not give that magical Nigella-type glamorous Christmassy gilt and silver and iced cupcakes atmosphere, but there are many out here who don’t have anything except maize porridge (stywepap) to eat and I am grateful for a full fridge at any time.
Couldn’t sleep last night thinking about those overcrowded psychiatric wards I saw yesterday, the stained bed linen and blocked toilets, no sign of nursing staff. In any social crisis, it is always the most vulnerable and powerless who get forgotten or shelved aside. Heartbreaking.
And the tree-lined village is overrun with bad-tempered holidaymakers with nasty sunburn. They fled the snow-bound airports and gloomy cities of the north in order to escape to sunshine and golden beaches only to find they could not escape themselves. Discontent is a persistent shadow to shake off. A red-faced mosquito-bit American man in a Hawaiin shirt with a parrot motif said to me this morning in the small understocked cafe: ‘God, how I loathe the Third World!’
‘Merry Christmas,’ I replied mildly. Africa isn’t for sissies.