It is a hot, still, cloudless summer’s afternoon. Rob and I are on the front porch, contentedly occupying ourselves after an easy lunch of leftover roast pumpkin salad and pate. Rob is reading; I have just finished the Sunday Times. In a while we will go for a swim. A shimmer, barely a ripple, disturbs the placid blue-green-grey surface of the pool; the cool water, when we wade in, will peel the clammy heat from our bodies like a second skin.
Later we will light the barbecue and move to the open patio to enjoy the last of the afternoon’s light and warmth. There is yellowtail for dinner, one of the best South African fish for a braai, firm, meaty, white-fleshed and tasty. We will make a fresh tomato-mint chutney, with cucumber and sesame oil, as an accompaniment, and I will open a bottle of good chenin blanc, with fresh tropical fruit accents that will go nicely with the fish and the chutney.
Things are looking up. Last night, for the first time since we moved in to this house in Emmarentia, we had guests for dinner – Eve and Shaun, and Kathy and Gareth. Eve and Shaun came early, so that Shaun could hang in our bedroom the large bevelled mirror that we bought last weekend at Studio Gesso in Melville. Kathy and Gareth came late, bringing with them a crumbly, home-baked tart for desert – the refusal of the tart to set, which may or may not have had something to do with the half litre of whiskey (including some of Gareth’s precious Laphroaig) that, according to Kathy, the recipe required, had kept them anxiously hovering over the oven for much longer than planned.
It was, in the event, a perfect evening. The house is looking comfortable, clean and welcoming.
The grass, finally, has been cut, and the elements of a garden are emerging once more. We have pictures on the walls – and today Rob bought, at the Rosebank Market, a fabulous Congolese raffia cloth, that we will hang in the hall. The kids (they’re all adults now, but how else should I refer to them?!) were happy, relaxed, and full of good-humoured affection.
And there was chicken, prawn and chorizo jambalaya for dinner, taken from Jamie Oliver’s new American cook book, a huge, flavourful, festive dish which even our hungry young guests could not demolish. Rob made, to accompany this, a Sicilian-inspired eggplant caponata, from a young Canadian chef’s new book of seasonal cooking, ‘Earth to Table’ (my Christmas present) – simply delicious! Not quite a ratatouille, but that will give you an idea – warm, zingy, garlicky and infinitely toothsome!
It all felt good, and right. In less than two weeks, Rob will be returning to Canada. But for now, we are an island of peace. An island with jambalaya.