Tuesday, December 22, 2015

John & Lynne's Christmas letter

John & Lynne Ford
60 Arthurs Road, Sea Point, Cape Town 8005
+27 21 439 3169  ●  +27 83 229 1172  ●  +27 83 656 4169
17th December 2015
A mathematician friend once explained that the years pass by so quickly as one ages because each successive year is a smaller percentage of one’s elapsed time. We suspect that this is influenced by the amount of activity one has fitted into the year. John having reached the age of 70 in a year in which we have done an unprecedented number of things (as those of you who read our MENU will know) has seen 2015 whizz by and events of a year ago seem as though we only just did them.
Right now, we are having a short summer holiday in a small self-catering flat a few metres from the beach at Paternoster, on the Cape’s West Coast, enjoying a week of minimal activity, enjoying each other’s company and, of course, enhancing the time with some good food and wine.

We have visited some wonderful places in this country (Bartholomeu’s Klip, The Karoo, Robertson, Stanford, Heidelberg, Elgin, Hemel & Aarde) and had some very special experiences, like having dinner on Queen Mary 2, 
but the highlight was a three week trip to Istanbul and Greece. We flew with Turkish Airlines and had five days in Istanbul before going to Greece for two weeks. The flight was good, but we started our Turkish experience with a small hiccup. John applied for his Turkish visa on the internet and received it in 15 minutes. Lynne was told (by the airline and the Embassy) that she didn’t need one with her British passport. Wrongly. After queuing for about an hour to pass through immigration at 4 am, she was sent back to the beginning of the queue to buy a visa and then had to queue for another hour while John waited. Brits be warned!
We rented a small self-catering apartment 10 minutes walk from Kumkapı, the square which is full of restaurants. We walked all over the centre of the city and used all forms of the excellent and affordable public transport, which uses a similar card system to our MyCiti card and the British Oyster pass. We ate some very good and some fairly ordinary street food and had one excellent lunch at a restaurant called Asitane, which features classic Ottoman cuisine. Naturally, we visited all the palaces and mosques, took a wonderfully enjoyable boat trip on the Bosporus, did most of the “must dos” and took hundreds of photographs.
After a late afternoon flight to Athens, we took a long, slow bus ride to Piraeus and then a very round the houses ride in a taxi to the hotel near the port in which we had booked a room. Early next morning, we walked the distance from hotel to port in less time than the duration of the taxi ride and boarded the (very relaxing) ferry to Santorini. We made a mistake of not checking TripAdvisor when we booked our Santorini accommodation. A long story which you can see in our blog, but it was not great. Santorini was already full of visitors, many of them Chinese, and the narrow roads were clogged with traffic and kamikaze riders on scooters and quad bikes. Santorini is beautiful and we found some good places to eat and some very good wines. We walked on most of the three days, took a boat ride to the currently dormant volcano and rented a small car for one day to see the far end of the island.
You can see the details of this and all other aspects of our trip, if you wish, by clicking on the links at the end of this letter.
After Santorini, we spent two days on Naxos and could have spent longer. It is smaller, quieter and we had wonderful accommodation, which made a tremendous difference. We took a bus ride to the centre of the island to see some of the real, less touristy aspects and walked round the main village and seafront. Next time we will stick to smaller islands. This was John’s first trip to Turkey and Greece, Lynne had lots to introduce him to.
 Then it was on to Athens for a couple of days, seeing the obligatory sights, 
before taking the train to Corinth to visit our friend Terry who lives in the Peloponnese in Diakofto, a village on the shore of the Gulf of Corinth. He has intimate knowledge of the area and its history and took us to places and people we would not have been able to see on our own. We spent several days in Mycenae and visited many of the historical sites, like the stupendous amphitheatre at Epidavros, built with incredible precision over 2500 years ago. It was a wonderful trip and we are very grateful to him. Fortunately, we can reciprocate when he visits us here. (That dot standing in the middle of the stage is me – Lynne).
The early part of the year is when our friends from the Northern Hemisphere visit us and we were very happy to see and entertain several of you this year – and look forward to seeing even more in 2016. With the collapse of the Rand through the dreadful mismanagement of our economy by the government and, especially, our embarrassment of a president, we have become a very affordable destination.
The year has been marked by the arrival of a new great nephew, James, son to Richard and Candy, and grandson to brother Bill and Stephanie. It has also, very sadly, been marked by the loss of old friends, especially John & Bill’s childhood friend Harry Robertson in Hawaii. We celebrate the arrivals and mourn the departures. Another sad premature departure from kidney failure, was the demise of Hamish, our beautiful ginger cat, at the end of last year. This was followed by the happy arrival of another full-of-character ginger, Rory with the magnificent tail. It is hard to believe that the tiny kitten who arrived in January is now this long, elegant creature, who is as soft as butter and so affectionate.
John’s 70th birthday last month was an occasion for great festivity, with Bill and Stephanie coming from Johannesburg to join us for the weekend. We had a small family dinner, followed by a lunch party the next day for a couple of dozen friends. Lynne made some wonderful food and a few of our best wines in our cellar played their part.
Just a few days after his birthday, John had a truly life-changing experience: a second cataract operation. His right eye had a new lens implanted in 2011; now it was time for the left eye. After wearing spectacles for 60 years, he is now able to see clearly without them, thanks to a very good surgeon and lenses from Mr Zeiss. You will only know the sense of freedom when you’ve lived with the restriction. After years of being short-sighted, he now uses reading specs when the light is a bit dim. Lynne is steeling herself for the same procedure and is still not quite persuaded that the procedure is as quick and as painless as it is. (I am a coward and will wait for the last possible moment and lots of tranquilizers. L). We are both very fit and active with just a few indications of age creeping up on us, like stiff bones in the morning). The only medication we take is Omega 3 oil capsules and fresh fruit and veg. We could be slimmer but look what we do for a living: eating and drinking professionally is rather a challenge and this year we had five months of events with canapés and both put on about 5 kilos more.
We have made an important change, one for which our country’s infrastructure is partly responsible. When we closed our shop nearly 6 years ago, we took the business on-line. This worked quite well until the Post Office started to disintegrate. It has now reached the stage where one cannot rely on orders reaching customers in good time – and the costs have doubled at the same time, making them disproportionate for small orders. So, sadly, Main Ingredient has all but expired. We still take special (fairly large) orders for food items which cannot easily be accessed by some of our customers, but we are concentrating on writing, photography and tours, which keep us very busy and which we are enjoying. MENU, our weekly newsletter, is reaching a wide audience and the associated blogs are being read by upwards of 15000 people each month, over half of whom are outside South Africa. The Main Ingredient website (www.mainingredient.biz) is now the home of MENU
Next year might well see more travel and we plan to make changes to our house, such as the installation of a photovoltaic electrical system. The capital expense of this is more than justified by the rising cost of electricity, not to mention possible unreliability of our supply. Lynne’s British pensions have given us more cash to achieve things we have planned for a while, and the travel.
So life trots merrily along and we are thoroughly enjoying these senior years, thankful for being able to enjoy them with good health and the means to be comfortable.
We hope that you will have a very good and happy Christmas and that 2016 will be a year in which life brings you health, comfort and a lot of well-being

                        Aegean Odyssey. Day   6: Piraeus to Santorini
                        Aegean Odyssey. Day   8: Santorini. The Caldera and the Volcano
                        Aegean Odyssey. Day   9: Santorini and Naxos
                        Aegean Odyssey. Day 10: Naxos. A bus ride to the interior and a storm
                        Aegean Odyssey. Day 13: Athens to Diakofto
                        Aegean Odyssey. Day 14: Diakofto
                        Aegean Odyssey. Day 15: Ancient Corinth, Mycenae
                        Aegean Odyssey. Day 16: Epidavros
                        Aegean Odyssey. Day 17: Mykine (Mycenae) and its wines

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