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I am just home from four days away, first in Bloemfontein, conducting research interviews with my colleague Shavilla, then in Cape Town, doing interviews yesterday and taking part in a college-industry workshop today. A very useful and constructive workshop, I might add – it is a marvel sometimes to see how busy people who have real jobs to do are willing to put time and effort into helping others, or doing what is good for society – a concept Margaret Thatcher, those of my generation will recall, denied existed.

In Bloemfontein on Monday I saw a man dressed head to toe in a shiny mauve suit and ate my first MacDonald’s takeout in 15 or 20 years. I don’t mind if I wait another 20 years for the next Mac Chicken burger – not that it wasn’t tasty, just that it reminded me of the kind of animal feed used in fattening the animals in question for slaughter.

In Cape Town I bought a bottle of Syrah made by a wine-maker who each year makes just 600 cases or so of a unique and special vintage or blend – each year different – to honour his mother who started the wine estate and was the first woman winemaker in South Africa and the first woman member of the Cape Wine Masters Guild.

Here’s an interesting touch: the son studied wine-making in Adelaide, Australia, and there he was told that market research showed that when a bottle of wine was picked up and examined by someone, 80% of the time it was purchased. So he had labels designed which are difficult to read, but intriguing to look at – in this case, the Black Lady Syrah has a label with dull gold script on a deep charcoal-black background – with the idea in mind that people would pick it to look at it and – well, you get the idea. Whether the market theory will hold remains to be seen, but the bottle that I bought – being, perhaps, one of the 80% – will make for a dinner story when one day it is opened and shared.

On the plane and in the evenings there has been work to do; last night I took my mother out to dinner, and so – and so, I thought tonight I might justifiably take a short cut, and instead of blogging, post a link to one of the greatest diarists of them all – Samuel Pepys. To lovers of biography, history, to Peeping-Toms and the simply curious, I commend him heartily, and suggest you click on the link.

And when I have a moment, I will tap away again at this keyboard, to the music of Mr Pepys’ curious and busy pen scratching away, somewhere out there in the ether.

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