When I was sixteen I came to Cape Town for the first time. A big part of my family lives there and over the years all of my cousins from German had gone for a visit except for me. So when my older sister wanted to go I asked for a Christmas present in form of a plane ticket and begged her to take me with.
For our week in Cape Town we stayed with my aunt and her husband in their little Claremont cottage. Claremont is part of the Southern Suburbs and that says it all – you are in suburbia. While it boasts some good schools and is close to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, it is truly not a very exciting place when you are a teenager or even when you are just looking for a decent place to have a drink as a grown up. As this was my first Cape Town impression, it could have gone horribly awry and who knows where I would be now. But it didn’t. With that first stay I fell in love with Claremont and then the rest of South Africa.
Breakfasts would be taken on the patio in my aunt’s tiny garden that had little more than a wind charm, a braai area, and a few fairy-light lit trees. My aunt would serve us a usual South African fair of mangos, pawpaws, and ready-to-bake croissants for breakfast. To me it that was the epitome of fancy and foreign and croissants on a Tuesday were something straight from the movies.
The garden itself didn’t seem small or suburban to me either, but was a wild jungle full of flowers and exotic trees I had never seen before.
And then there was the light. The African light that is different from any other light. Warmer, brighter, and making everything more colorful. I remember declaring to my sister that this light was responsible for a sky that was much bluer than any other sky. She dismissed my young enthusiasm by telling me to shut up, the sky was just blue. To that I responded that it wasn’t so, the sky was bluer than blue and why couldn’t we have such blue sky back home?! (A question I still frequently ask myself and, to their annoyance, strangers on the street.)
Fast forward over ten years and I was back in the garden, the sky still bluer than blue, and Cape Town my new home. Ready-to-bake croissants had lost their charm on me, luckily the garden hadn’t. There was Popeye, the neighbor’s cat who liked my uncle for feeding him prawn tails and letting him sit at the head of the table. I liked popeye and housesitting this little cottage, especially since the wine fridge was always well stocked and the freezer full of homemade lasagne. The fairy lights were probably not the same anymore, but replacements still made the garden a little bit magical at night. First order of the housesitting days was a pizza dinner party. My aunt while not Italian is an excellent pizza baker and we have all learned from her. Of course the pizza tile cracked in the oven on my first solo attempt and I was grateful to learn upon their return that it wasn’t fancy imported, Italian terracotta, but just from the local hardware store.
Today, another eight years later the pizza recipe as been shared and refined. If you would like a laminated copy I will get you in touch with my ex-boyfriend who was keen on such details. I never used a recipe in my life, which drove him crazy and also means that I can’t share it with you now, I could just show you. The pizza tile has long been replaced and so has the pepper grinder which was made out of an empty wine bottle and that I threw out after a party by mistake – sorry, auntie! Popeye has died and while we still miss him, he has been seemingly seamlessly replaced by another neighbor’s cat. Whenever I hear Jamie Cullum’s 21st century kid I’m back in the garden. The sky is always bluer than blue and it feels like home. And feeling like home is what daydreaming is all about in one way or another, isn’t it?