Monday 30 November 2009

Queen of Tarts

Don’t you just hate it when somebody else gets to your idea first? First there was Queen of Tarts in Dublin, with their truly excellent raspberry cheesecake. Now there’s Queen of Tarts in Cape Town – no relation. (At least I don’t think so.)


The vintage bakeware.

The books.

The stripes (stripes are a close second to spots in the hierarchy of Things Eithne Loves).

The French grey paint.

The candy-coloured kitchen equipment.

The chocolate tart.

The chocolate tarts are famous, and deservedly so. The shortcrust pastry is almost like shortbread and the filling is just the right balance of sweet/bitter with a hint of caramel in the topping.

The crumbs.

For any Cape Town-bound readers, Queen of Tarts can be found at 213 Lower Main Road, Observatory.

XXOO Eithne, Queen of the Dessert

Friday 27 November 2009

Trail of Burns/Ring of Fire

‘Ring of Fire’ is my Burns theme tune, from when we were working on the pitch to design the Burns Museum and I kept humming it. At first I couldn’t work out why, and then I realised: it burns, burns, burns, the ring of fire. So please have Mr Johnny Cash playing in your head while you read the following.

Before I left London, I promised the Burns team that I would look out for memorials to the bard on my travels. Supposedly, there are more monuments/memorials/tribute-type-things to him than any other writer.

I haven’t found a statue just yet, but on my walks to Observatory, the next ‘hood over, I noticed the following:

Burns is sandwiched between Addison,

who I think would have been good for a laugh, and Coleridge.

Coleridge would have been more of a ‘like totally man, I’m on this way out awesome trip man, it’s like totally dark.’

If I find any more Burns tributes, I’ll post them. Watch this space.

Thursday 26 November 2009

Picture Dictionary: Tackies

In the words of Henry Higgins, “One common language I'm afraid we'll never get.” Though unlike Henry, I’m not really bothered by this. I like the fact that English spoken in Ireland is different from English spoken in the US, in England and, as I’m learning now, in South Africa. I’ve been collecting choice words and phrases to share with you in a new feature – the picture dictionary.

We’ll start off with an easy one.

Tackies [tak-eez]


Footwear worn for sport and leisure; known in other countries as runners (Ireland), trainers (Great Britain), sneakers (USA).

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Road Tri- oh.

Beate, my lovely German housemate, really wanted to go out to Cape Point before she left. (Cape Point is neither the most southerly part of Africa nor the place where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, but it makes a very good living on the back of tourist assumptions that these two facts are true. It is beautiful though.) She asked me if I was interested in hiring a car to go.

‘We don’t need no steenking hire car,’ said Eithne. ‘I’ll just ask James if I can borrow the uno.’

James’s little green fiat uno is full of personality and I was prepared to defend it against any doubters … until this weekend.

Beate and I picked up two other passengers for our outing and full of glee we headed south on the M3. Norwegian Anne provided a running commentary on the sights we passed and the fiat valiantly chugged along, despite the heat of the day and the fullness of the car.

When we got to the seaside we decided that the only obvious thing to do was stop for ice creams. Ice creams bought, we got back in the car and I pulled away from the car park. Next stop: Cape Point. At least that was the plan.

A few metres down the road, the engine cut out. I restarted the car. It cut out again. We pushed the car into a car park and called James, who suggested waiting for 10 minutes, then trying to start again.

We walked over to the bathing huts,

and watched the pretty people splashing in the waves.

Then we went to stick our toes in the water.

I turned back just before a giant wave broke – and swept Portia off her feet. One moment she was standing there, next moment she was gone. Luckily she was ok, but she was soaked. Pretty dramatic for someone who’d never been to the sea before.

Back to the car, having decided we’d used up all our bad luck and that the car was bound to start. Except it didn’t, even with the best efforts of a crowd of male volunteers, each convinced they knew the best way to start the car again.

Spoke to James again, he called the mechanic and arranged for the uno to be collected. The four of us girls found solace in this café - this signboard says it all, really.

Poor uno got taken away by the tow truck. When I told the mechanic that James would call the next day he said (tellingly) ‘oh, this is James’s car.’ What, I wondered, had James not been telling me.

We went home to Woodstock by train (and how funny is it that we broke down in St James?)

So Beate never did get to Cape Point and has returned to Berlin with a healthy skepticism of Irish girls who assure her, 'no it's fine, honestly - good as new.'

Meanwhile, I am going to put ‘learn to jump start a car’ on my New Years’ Resolutions list.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

DIY Exhibition Design

In my pre-August 2009 experience of exhibition design this is how things usually worked:

I would have a random idea, suggest it to the designer, who would roll her eyes and explain patiently to me why my idea was impossible and gently suggest how it might work in the real world where ponies don’t have wings and fairies don’t build your exhibition in the night while you sleep. Then a team of other designers and fabricators would become involved to make the idea a reality.

Things are a little different now. On Thursday, as we looked at the exhibition space in Greatmore and talked about how to demarcate the work of the three artists, I suggested doing something with the floor. ‘Great!’ said Kate. ‘So I’ll leave that with you then.’

Which is how I ended up spending a day cutting stencils and spraying the floor. Well, I started spraying the floor but was doing such a bad job that Gary came in and showed me how it was done.

I did do a few more at the end though. 'Linda' is all my work.

Monday 23 November 2009

Hints to Cure a Cape Town Cold

It’s been an eventful few days, what with being sick, helping put up another exhibition and bad car karma.

However, I’m now well on the mend (the car, it turns out, is another story) thanks to the following medicine:

- Take one drive along the coast armed with three kinds of fruit juice,

- Lots of good food,

- Even better company,

- A walk along the beach,

- Some wine,

- Patty’s special hot toddy,

- A good night’s sleep,

- Laura’s French toast,

- A pedicure,

- And top off with a gentle swing in a hammock.

Life, to quote my brother-in-law, is good.

Friday 20 November 2009

I'm Not Dead

Hints to Lady Travellers is speechless. Literally. I have no voice today and I very nearly decided that this was a sign I shouldn’t post anything today (I’m also behind on writing having spent two days in bed staring at the ceiling)….

But I know some of you check this blog not simply because you enjoy reading my stories but also to make sure that I’m still posting them and therefore am probably still alive.

I haven’t had time to make up a placard that says I’m Not Dead, instead, here’s a photo taken of me last night by one housemate (Beate) with another housemate (Thabi).

This was shortly before I decided to take advantage of my new husky voice by singing Lili Marlene, chanteuse-style on the verandah. Yes, I realise I have only myself to blame.

Bon weekend!

Thursday 19 November 2009

Irma Stern

Thanks to a generous benefactor I had wheels on Saturday so I went for a little drive around. I stopped in Chelsea Village in Wynberg for a stroll and then I went to the Irma Stern Museum, which is now part of the University of Cape Town campus.

Irma Stern was a South African artist whose work perched her between Europe and Africa and who was, first, acclaimed in Europe before winning acceptance in her homeland.

The Museum is in the house where she lived. Looking at Irma Stern’s paintings in her house was a joy. No sterile white walls here. Anyone who paints her house in red, green, yellow, purple, blue gets my immediate sympathy.

I liked, very much, seeing where she had painted walls, doors and furniture – as though her painting slipped off the easel and spilled out into its surroundings. She also created signs and illustrations for books. Shelves full of the objects she collected, her books and interesting furniture give you a sense of her personality.

And I liked her work. Some of the portraits (especially of women) are a bit too stylised for my liking (can they all really have had such elegant, elongated cheekbones?) – but I like the way they stare at you from their frames.

And yes, there is something unmistakably African about them – enhanced by the fact that they’re displayed surrounded by art and artefacts Irma Stern collected on her travels through Southern Africa, the Congo and Zanzibar.

I know it’s not always possible, but the Irma Stern Museum makes a good argument for preserving artists’ houses as places to show their work. It’s just good sense.