There is a downside to this “grow your own” malarkey. When you want a vegetable, you’ve got to go and pick, or dig up, the bloody thing yourself and in the process, you get dirty. It looks so romantic in magazines, especially the UK Country Living mag. that I drool over from time to time. There are always pictures of some woman floating around a veg garden in a long paisley print skirt, white (yes, white) top, a pair of pristine gardening clogs and a floppy, yet fetching, straw hat. She usually has an artisan-crafted grass basket over her arm and a cute pair of pruning scissors. Yeah right! As I scrabble in the dirt for my dinner, I am usually decked out in very grubby tracksuit pants, tee-shirt, slops, and a decidedly unbecoming hat. Fortunately however, I’m not short of baskets or cutting implements.
Apart from baskets, I also have quite a collection of teapots, bowls and jugs. The teapot collection is a result of me searching for a pot that makes the perfect cup of tea and pours without spilling. Eventually my mum gave me a teapot that she had bought from an Oxfam charity shop in England and it’s just right. I haven’t bought a teapot since. I love bowls and jugs though; I’m drawn to the shape and functionality of them.
As I was saying about vegetables, harvesting them is not the only work involved; you then have to wash off the soil (splashing mud all over the place), trim, peel and chop or slice the vegetables yourself. Oh, there are times when I do long for prepared Woolies vegetables, washed and already sliced – all you have to do is open the packet, and you don’t get dirty in the process.
Getting used to dirt is another adjustment that one has to make when one lives in the country. In Durban, there is a hard surface approaching all entrances to the house and very little dirt finds its way inside. If it does venture in, then Theodora (our domestic goddess) zaps it with a wide range of cleaning implements and products. And Zina (our garden warrior queen) keeps everything clean and tidy outdoors. Here, we have a very unruly garden and lots of soil and no-one to exterminate it as it sneaks indoors, other than me. And as I am mostly outdoors, playing in the stuff, the cleaning of the house is a tad erratic. And it’s not just the house that gets dirty, it’s me as well.
Just another quick aside here. I once introduced myself to someone and she replied “I’m Cathy as well” and I actually thought her name was Cathy Azwell. I do that a lot, more so if some red wine has been involved! I was at a dinner party once in the Midlands (and I think some green stuff might have been involved in this one – lots of old hippies living in these parts!) and we were talking about book clubs (which I have never belonged to). One of the other guests (who lectures at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg) mentioned that she had joined a CD club at the university, which I happened to hear as a “seedy” club. I have no idea what I was thinking but I was intrigued. “What a brilliantly far-out idea” I enthused, taking her a bit by surprise. As all eyes turned on me, I asked her in all earnestness what sort of seedy activities they could possibly get up to in Pmb. As everyone choked and spluttered hysterically, it dawned on me that I had yet again got the wrong end of the stick.
Anyway, back to dirt and the abundance of it here in the country. Country dirt is definitely nicer than city dirt. City dirt is generated by humans and it’s no wonder we try so hard to sanitise our urban environments. Country dirt comes from nature. So if I happen to have a surprise visit (I always clean before expected visitors arrive – the house and me) I justify the dirt as a sign of living in harmony with nature. Of course, I only tell myself this, I wouldn’t want anyone to think I had gone completely bossies since I left the city!
 Bossies or Bosbefok – South African slang for going whacko or bush crazy