Saturday, April 24, 2010

Crayfish Coast

All along the West Coast you can enter the water and find crayfish! But of course it is appreciated and eaten with reverence. Treat the abundance of the sea with disrespect and one day there will remain nothing! So it is essential to have a licence which allows you a limited quantity. Undersized crayfish are always returned to the sea to breed another day.

One of my first visits ever to Paternoster, we had hardly parked or someone offered us crayfish for sale and asked us to open the car boot fast! These are such nice and amusing people, but their wares, you must ignore. Of course the local people had taken from the sea for generations and see rules as something to get around. There are plenty of stories of locals putting out sentries to warn them of the approach of "Fauna and Flora" which is the name for the Marine and Coastal inspectors.

Here is a favourite story, often told: A vendor walks with a bucket of undersized crayfish when an inspector appears suddenly.
"You are selling small ones there!"
"No, sir, " comes the answer, "I am teaching them to swim...I will show you!" He walks to the water and let the crayfish down one by one and they swim away.
"I still do not believe you" says the inspector, "I am fining you for possession of illegal crayfish".
Fast as a flash comes the answer: "Which crayfish?"

The crayfish on our plates are enormous and taken out by a kindly young neighbour (with licence, of course)! Sometimes we buy them at Velddrif or Paternoster and all the restaurants also offer crayfish. The painting gave me great pleasure as I longed for colour after I have been doing a lot of blue skies lately.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

White on white in Paternoster

Today, I show the new developments in Paternoster. There had been unfortunate design happenings along the West Coast, as in Yzerfontein and Langebaan where far too many different architectural styles vie with each other for attention. Here in beautiful Paternoster every new building shows it's respect to the Cape vernacular style.

Look at those vertical windows, the dark gray corrugated iron roofs, the railway sleeper lintels over wooden window frames and the one and only colour adopted from past dwellings: white! And as a feature: the large white chimneys, practical and pretty!

Paternoster is still very much a fishing village and one can see a hundred boats drying out on the wide white beach at any specific moment, but it has also become the place where tourists can relax in luxury in unique boutique hotels and cooling restaurants. Have a peek at Paternoster here!

Paint wise, yes, I am back where I was before with my finer brush. To me, the choice of which detail to skip over was too hurtful, so here we have the full illustrated image!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

You must love Paternoster!

I held out for a while, but now I must introduce you to the best loved and most beautiful West Coast town, Paternoster. It still retains that true fishing village feeling. I previously joined the voices which complained that the town was now "over-developed"(about two-hundred houses). That is until you behold the southern coast of Spain! Here on the golden beaches, you truly relax. The ever-present fishing boats are rustic and colourful! The few new restaurants offer splendid views and welcome refreshments. All the homes in this spotless village are built in the true West Coast vernacular and mostly painted white.

How did the name Paternoster come about? Each expert has his own theory. Was it because the indigenous people wore beads that reminded one of a rosary, or did some boats land in trouble on this very rough coast and quickly realized the value of praying the "Our Father" which is what the word means?

A more painterly painting this time! I refrained from using my number 4 round brushes....mmmm...I think last week's very fine illustration had something to do with it. I grabbed an angled shader and used the sides, edge and point and did a lot of double loading with 2 colours. The photo underneath shows a boat coming in, and granddaughter Robyn in pink, joining the curious crowd!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Berg River Estuary at Velddrif

Does this wading stilt know what is real and what is an illusion as he hunts for small frogs, insect larvae, molluscs and shellfish? The river flows restlessly behind his island, but there is hardly a ripple in the soft blue mirror in front. Around him, inter-tidal mudflats and salt marshes, some parts murky and others shining like metal!

"Stilt" is surely the best name for Himantopus himantopus, or as he is called in Afrikaans: "Rooipoot-elsie". Using his long stilt-like legs he can wade in different depths of water up to his so-called knees and never needs to swim. In flight these long legs extend well beyond the tail.

There is a wonderful atmospheric bird hide on the Berg River estuary at Velddrif and more than 200 species can be viewed here. Besides the black-winged stilts there are amazing spoonbills, pelicans, flamingos, moorhens, Caspian terns and kingfisher. I always visit places on midday, thus I only saw flamingos in the distance resting under the bridge. A week later Liz photographed swarms of them at sunrise, so visit her blog to see more of our lovely river!

Something I love but do not understand is how migrating birds, dolphins, swimming birds, etc can do synchronized movements. Music in their heads, maybe? In my photo two egrets, "Tweedledum and Tweedledee" I shall call them, feed close to the bird hide, totally synchronised!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bokkoms: Turning from Silver to Gold

As the little fish dry out they become thin, papery and have a rich golden hue. In my painting I show some people deftly gutting and skinning the fish. It is good to watch them for a while as you can then have a few bokkoms weighed out and clean them yourself at home. The meaty part is then cut into tiny strips. About these workers: no assembly line here as each worker makes him/herself comfortable on an upturned crate and sit either in the shade or in the sun.

Later I strolled up and down the Berg River looking at every bird, boat, bend and island in the river, and still the lady in the yellowish t-shirt concentrated on her task, never moving, maybe because the knife was very sharp. "Her back!" I thought, and tried to paint the tension in those back muscles.

So how do we eat this delicacy? No doubt, the great cooks will invent some interesting pates for us, but here on the West Coast bokkoms are either eaten as a salty snack with ice cold beer or wine, or the other way, the high calorie way, which is how I and most people prefer it: Take home-baked oven-warm white bread, plaster it with real butter, add a good dollop of sweet apricot preserve and arrange the bokkoms on top. Pour a cup of the best coffee with it. Now I know how I am going to celebrate the completion of this week's post!