Monday, 29 September 2008


SAbookworm would like to wish its Jewish readers Shana Tova and well over the fast, and its Muslim readers Eid Mubarak.

Rosh Hashanah begins tonight at sundown and lasts for two days until sundown on Wednesday. This is the Jewish New Year, the symbolic anniversary of the creation of the world.
It is also a time of self-examination, and an opportunity to resolve to improve on past mistakes in the upcoming year. It is both a solemn and festive occasion, a feast preceded by prayer and contemplation. The greeting "Shana Tova" means "Good Year", and the occasion is celebrated by loud blasts on a shofar (ram's horn) during services in the synagogue.

Eid ul-Fitr marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, during which Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset. This year, Eid falls on 30 September, and it is typically celebrated by attending the Eid prayer in a mosque or open field.
Before this, every Muslim who is able to do so must pay Zakat al-fitr, alms that are distributed to needy local Muslims prior to the start of the Eid prayer. It can be given at any time during the month of Ramadan, and is often given early so that recipients can use it for purchases to celebrate the occasion.

Sunday, 28 September 2008


As the country exhales after two exceptionally tense and historic weeks, it is perhaps a good time to look back on some of the lives and events that shaped our earlier history.
Great Lives, Pivotal Moments by Lauren Segal and Paul Holden is the perfect way in which to do this, as it documents the bold and visionary Sunday Times Heritage Project. In order to celebrate its centenary in 2006, the newspaper commissioned a trail of street memorials across the country, commemorating the great and the good who shaped our country's past.
The memorials were intended to show how news becomes history, and set about taking a fresh and imaginative view of the past; shared and separate, painful and proud.
The new book documents these memorials and the stories behind them - from Olive Schreiner’s fight for women’s rights to Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s leadership of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Each intimate portrait reveals the impact that segregation and apartheid had on people’s daily lives, and demonstrates the hardship so many suffered. But, as importantly, they also demonstrate the individual and collective spirit of courage and resistance that characterised much of the struggle for democracy. And the narratives are enriched by previously unseen archival treasures and images gathered by the project team from the South African History Archive.
These are some of the stories the memorials commemorate:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu / The Truth and Reconciliation Commission:
In the East London City Hall, on 16 April 1996, Archbishop Desmond Tutu dropped his head in his hands and wept. It was Day Two of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings; former Robben Islander Singqokwana Ernest Malgas was describing his torture by security police.
The TRC would hear from 21 000 people across South Africa, and Tutu, its chairman, would say of the process: "We have looked the beast in the eye. Our past will no longer keep us hostage. We who are the rainbow people of God will hold hands and say, 'Never again! Nooit weer! Ngeke futhi! Ga reno tlola!' ".
This memorial to Tutu and the Commission he lead now stands outside the East London City Hall, where that historic moment took place. Artist Anton Momberg made the sculpture slightly smaller than life size, favouring intimacy over monumentality.
Ingrid Jonker (19 September 1933 — 19 July 1965):
In 1963 Ingrid Jonker’s poem, The child who was shot dead by soldiers at Nyanga, was published. A brief two years later, at the age of 31, her on-going battle with depression and anxiety lead her to take her own life.
Jonker spent much of her childhood in Gordon's Bay, where this monument now stands, and it was where she was happiest. Almost 30 years after her death, President Nelson Mandela reminded the country of this poet’s insight and prescience when he read The Child during his inaugural address to South Africa’s first democratic Parliament, on 24 May 1994: "… the child grown to a man treks through all Africa, the child grown into a giant journeys through the whole world, Without a pass."
This poignant memorial by Tyrone Appollis, depicting a tricycle, is a reminder of where we have come from - and a place we must be vigilant never to return to.
The Purple Shall Govern:
On 2 September 1989 anti-apartheid protesters marching on Parliament were stopped by police near the spot in central Cape Town on which this memorial now stands. They mounted an impromptu sit-in and police retaliated with tear gas, batons and a new weapon: a water cannon laced with purple dye to stain demonstrators and make them easier to identify and detain.
As protesters scattered, one climbed onto the armoured vehicle with the cannon and turned the purple jet on police. Purple dye stained most of the surrounding buildings, including the National Party headquarters and the white-washed walls of the historic Old Townhouse.
The next day graffiti all over the city proclaimed "The Purple Shall Govern". This was one of the last protest marches outlawed by the apartheid government. Eleven days later, 30 000 people marched through the city without police intervention.
As one half of the partnership that produced Bitterkomix, aficionados will instantly recognise Conrad Botes’s hand in the memorial commemorating the "Purple March".

Mohandas "Mahatma" Gandhi (2 October 1869 — 30 January 1948)
On 16 August 1908, 3 000 Muslims, Hindus and Christians led by Mohandas Gandhi, a Hindu, gathered outside the Hamidia Mosque and burned their passes, documents all people classified as "non-white" by the government were forced to carry or face imprisonment. The huge bonfire, lit in a cauldron, marked the first burning of passes in South Africa and the beginning of Gandhi’s satyagraha, or passive resistance, campaign.
This memorial honouring that event features a potjie, like the cauldron in which Gandhi’s supporters burned their passes. When the wheel beneath the cauldron is spun, a zoetrope cuts into its metal sides and enables viewers to see an image of a pass actually burning.
For more about the Sunday Times Heritage Project, click through to

Friday, 26 September 2008


For all our very real problems and challenges, South Africans seem to live a charmed existence. Somehow, whenever we're on the threshold of chaos, when our position as a nation is balanced on a knife's edge, we manage to pull back from the brink.
It's happened throughout our history, and perhaps even more so in recent times. It happened in 1994, and it happened two weeks ago with the Nicholson judgement, which neutralised a situation that could easily have bubbled over into widespread civil conflict. And now it's happened again.
Yesterday, in a unequivocal demonstration of democracy at work, Kgalema Motlanthe was elected and sworn in as the third President of the democratic Republic of South Africa.
While Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille rightly pointed out that Motlanthe had not been voted into power by the people, it should be borne in mind that he was voted in under extraordinary circumstances by the majority of MPs in terms of the provisions made for such an eventuality in the Constitution. This was also done with full acknowledgement of the fact a democratic election would be held as required by law in April or May next year.
More importantly, for me, I saw in the whole process the first glimmer of really good governance I've seen in a long time.
To begin with, the decision having been made to "recall" former President Thabo Mbeki (the ramifications of which, needless to say, have still to play out), the entire transition from one administration to the next was handled speedily and precisely.
Mbeki was given time to tender his resignation to his people before any comment was made by the ANC, which was the right and decent (and may I say, legally required) thing to do under the circumstances. He did this a little over 24 hours after the party's National Executive Committee (NEC) had taken its decision which, whether we agree with it or not, was taken within the framework of the party's and the nation's constitutions. Comment came from ANC President Jacob Zuma timeously the next day (Monday) at lunchtime, shortly after Mbeki's resignation had been officially tabled in Parliament. He really couldn't - and shouldn't - have commented sooner.
The final Cabinet meeting of the outgoing administration was held on Wednesday (even though this was a public holiday), and the process of electing a new President began the next day (with an interim President, Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri, having being elected to bridge the gap between the end of Mbeki's tenure at midnight on Wednesday and the swearing in of the new President on Thursday).
The election process itself, under the able stewardship of Chief Justice Pius Langa, was handled with calm statutory efficiency, with the swearing in of the President elect taking place immediately after his election.
Just an aside here on the much-criticised DA decision to field a second presidential candidate. Although the party may have done better to consult other opposition parties before it did so, and should have been more alert to the irony of proposing a man whom they themselves had not been prepared to elect as head of party, the point of the nomination shouldn't be missed.
It was clearly to demonstrate that, in a constitutional democracy, the people and their representatives have a choice, and don't have to be chain-ganged into decisions thrust upon them by the majority party. It was a point well made but, in my opinion, a card that could have been better played.
Suffice it to say that by 17:00 on the day of his election, the newly-appointed President was making a well-considered speech, broadly setting out his policy direction for the next 6 - 8 months. And, without further ado, he also announced his new Cabinet, immediately allaying uncertainty about this. Here there were some choices which give a strong indication that Motlanthe is indeed at the helm and not just a "caretaker president" - and that he is already showing leadership we certainly haven't seen from Jacob Zuma.
Trevor Manuel
- despite his rather questionable resignation on Tuesday - is back in the finance hotseat. While I believe we could do with a change in Finance Minister for many reasons, this was exactly the right thing to do for now - local and international markets needed re-assurance of continuity in this key portfolio during this time of turbulent transition at home and global financial instability.
Then, doing the best he could with the dead wood without being perceived to be on a Mbekite purge, President Motlanthe moved Manto Tshabala-Msimang to the non-portfolio of Minister in the Presidency (where, hopefully, she can do little damage), and replaced her with Barbara Hogan as Minister of Health, which was an inspired move. Hogan has a strong activist background and is well respected for her stance on HIV/Aids, and her appointment has been greeted with jubilation by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) as well as by her colleagues and civil society.
Baleka Mbete was elected Deputy President, which was probably a good call given her experience, as well as a nod in the direction of gender equity. Personally, though, I would have preferred to have seen the appointment of someone not quite so self-satisfied and not quite so comfortable with the rhetoric of racism, especially in light of her shrill performance directly following the Nicholson judgement.
Other interesting and well-judged moves included the appointment of proven Chief Whip Nathi Mthethwa to the Ministry of Safety and Security, where a new broom is desperately needed, and the appointment of axed Deputy Health Minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge as Deputy Speaker of Parliament.
So, in the first hours of his presidency, Motlanthe moved swiftly to stamp his mark on the office and to allay the fears of both the financial sector and the South African people, something that was urgently needed. He did this with grace, humility and certainty, which augers well, although I do think he could benefit from pacing his speeches better.
Speaking strictly for myself, I've always believed it was the ANC's plan to get Motlanthe into this position by tactical means, and it will be interesting to see what happens come election time.
In the run-up to Polokwane, there was no way the party could go against Zuma's popular support and suggest Motlanthe as president, even if felt he was the better candidate. So I believe he was strategically positioned as deputy and then speedily moved into Cabinet, where he was, in turn, well-positioned to take the reins of government if the opportunity and/or need arose. And the chance to get him into the Presidency might well have been one of the major motivations behind removing Mbeki from office before his term was up. Zuma, after all, is not a member of the House, and therefore didn't qualify for election, and possession is 9/10ths of the law.
The ANC might very well have played this game far more strategically than anyone has given it credit for ...
Photograph of President Motlanthe taking the oath of office courtesy of The Guardian, UK (EPA)

UPDATE (26 September, 13:37): Nya Hah! Already the machinery that is likely to keep Motlanthe in office after the 2009 elections is in motion. IOL reported just before lunch that the Institute of Race Relations has predicted he will lead the nation until 2014 (click through to for more).

Monday, 22 September 2008


SAbookworm would like to wish all its readers a joyful Spring Equinox or, to use the old Celtic name, Ostara. This the beginning of spring, and is one of two days during the year when the day and the night are of equal length.
In pre-Christian nature religions, the Spring Equinox was celebrated as a time of balance and new birth, as it is across many faiths and beliefs today. It is time to celebrate life and also to consider new directions for growth, fulfilment and service. Traditionally, it is also the day on which initiations or self-initiations take place.
Initiation is usually marked by a ritual bath to symbolise cleansing and purity of intent, as well as the adoption of new spiritual name, in much the same as is done in Christian baptisms. As with all birthdays, it is celebrated with cake and ale (or tea, juice or cordials), which is shared with family, friends and community. Candles are lit to symbolise new light, new direction and the return of the sun, and roses are often used in these ceremonies as a symbol of caring.
Ostara is also a time to focus on the greater good for the year ahead and, in this time of social, political, economic and natural upheaval, it is perhaps fitting to focus on the healing of the earth and all things on her. What greater wish for a new direction could there be than that?

Friday, 19 September 2008


As the US banking crisis sends shock waves around the world, and Julius Malema threatens that anyone who re-charges Jacob Zuma will be Public Enemy Number One (whatever the merits of the case, needless to say), we could all do with a bit of light relief. And I have just the thing ...

I recently came across a screamingly funny blog called Cake Wrecks, which shows pictures of and gives commentary on "professional cakes gone horribly, hilariously wrong".
Now not only are the cakes themselves wonders to behold, but the bloggist's commentary is such well-written comedy/bathos/satire/irony that it'll have you in stitches.

Click through to Cake Wrecks for a bit of pre-weekend fun.

Yes, this is a cake ...

Wednesday, 17 September 2008


When I was a kid, which wasn't that long ago, everyone had a vegetable patch and a few fruit trees in the back garden. In fact, quite a few of our neighbours still kept chickens, and my Dad occasionally made his own wine from our abundant grape crop.
Now we buy everything we eat from the supermarket, and demand imported fruit and veg when locally-grown produce is out of season. Much our food travels literally thousands of kilometres to reach our tables, and most of it is grown using chemical fertilisers and insecticides (and that's without mentioning what goes into meat production!).

It might be the first sign of age setting in, but I confess I miss the simpler way of life I knew as a child; a way of life in which people were still connected to one another and the earth, even if they lived in cities. I'm nostalgic for the taste of home-grown peaches, for neighbourly chats over the garden wall, and the culture of sharing nature's bounties.

So when an SAbookworm reader asked me to review The NEW Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency by John Seymour, I couldn't wait to get a copy. And what a book it is!

In the great Dorling-Kindersley tradition of illustrated non-fiction, this is a manual, an almanac, a book of philosophy and a fine read rolled into one.
First written in 1975 and regarded as the founding text of the self-sufficiency movement, it was extensively updated by the author just before his death in 2004, aged 90. This was done in conjunction with fellow guru, Will Sutherland, who is still living happily and self-sufficiently on the farm they developed together in Ireland. And, while it's written with northern hemisphere conditions in mind, the methodology can easily be adapted for South African use.

Sub-titled "The Classic Guide for Realists and Dreamers", this book tells you everything you need to know about self-sufficiency, from how to start a small urban vegetable patch to what goes into running a fully self-sufficient small farm.

Starting off with a very interesting chapter on the meaning of self-sufficiency in the contemporary context, it proceeds to detailed chapters on everything from keeping farmyard animals to brewing your own beer, saving energy and reducing waste. And for those of you who're up to it, it even gives instructions on how to do your own butchering.

More importantly, perhaps, the author highlights the need for all of us to re-look the way in which we live, and to re-consider what it is that constitutes "the good life". As he puts it, "It is time to cut out what we do not need so that we can live more simply and happily. Good food, comfortable clothes, serviceable housing and true culture - those are the things that matter." And what better reward can there be than celebrating the things that really matter with food you've produced yourself?

Whether all you have is a handkerchief of a garden or you're planning to go fully self-sufficient, if you're looking for a life that's simpler in material terms but richer in life experiences, this is the book to get. Not only will you be creating a different, gentler way of life for yourself by using it, but you'll be discovering ways of reducing your personal impact on the environment.
And, who knows? You could even find a whole new way of earning a living when you browse the amazing crafts and skills section.

Friday, 12 September 2008


It's back to books with a bang! The shortlist for the 2008 Man Booker Prize was announced in London this week, and what a list it is. Fiction, as always, at its very best.
Two first-time novelists, Aravind Adiga and Steve Toltz, made it onto the list of six titles, selected from a longlist of thirteen. Previous winners of the Booker Prize, John Berger and Salman Rushdie, were not selected, and Sebastian Barry is the only novelist to have been shortlisted before.

Linda Grant, winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2000 and longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2002, is the only female author in the pack. Philip Hensher, also longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2002 and a Booker judge in 2001, and the widely-acclaimed Indian writer Amitav Ghosh complete the selection.

The shortlisted novels are:

Aravind Adiga The White Tiger (Atlantic)
Sebastian Barry The Secret Scripture (Faber and Faber)
Amitav Ghosh Sea of Poppies (John Murray)
Linda Grant The Clothes on Their Backs (Virago)
Philip Hensher The Northern Clemency (Fourth Estate)
Steve Toltz A Fraction of the Whole (Hamish Hamilton)
"These novels are intensely readable;" says Michael Portillo, Chair of the Judges, "each of them an extraordinary example of imagination and narrative. Fine page-turning stories, they nonetheless raise highly thought-provoking ideas and issues."

The judging panel had to read over 112 entries before whittling down the list to the Man Booker Dozen (13 titles) and then again to just six titles. They will meet to decide on the winning novel on Tuesday 14 October, and the author will be award the £50,000 prize money at an awards ceremony later on that evening at Guildhall, London.

Sunday, 7 September 2008


Former president Nelson Mandela celebrated National Arbor Day on Friday by planting the 90 990th tree in Soweto's campaign to plant
200 000 trees by 2010. As he turned 90 in July, this event had special significance, not least because it is a supreme act of faith to plant a tree so late in life.
It gave me pause for thought, not only about trees and their importance in the environmental sense, but in the metaphorical sense as well.
Most of us are familiar with the Biblical parable which teaches that we will know a tree by its fruit. Simple. True. Whatever is said or done by any individual or collective, the ultimate judgement of merit can only lie in the fruit of their actions.
The fruit of the socio-political tree planted by such stalwarts as Mandela, Sisulu, Thambo and many, many others was this nation's democracy, and its impeccable founding commitment to equal rights, the rule of law and the provisions of one of the world's most progressive constitutions. It was fruit to be proud of, fruit that gave hope.
But the post-Mandela era will bear no such fruit, and the events of the past week have made that clearer than ever.
Supporters of current ANC president, Jacob Zuma, have been calling loudly and aggressively for corruption charges against him to be dropped unconditionally in recent weeks, but now the party and its alliance partner COSATU have officially done the same. Think for a moment on the implications of this.
Not only has the ANC voted in as its chief a man who has serious charges of corruption pending against him, and whose theme song is a rallying cry to violence and division; not only has it elected to the NEC (National Executive Committee) several representatives who are either convicted criminals or who are suspected of criminal activity, it is now asking South Africans to effectively set aside the constitution and the rule of law, and to lobby for a "political solution" to the Zuma debacle.
What this means is that the leaders of the ANC and their counterparts in COSATU are asking for the very foundations of our democracy to be overturned so that the candidate they have elected as party president can become the president of the country without further obstacle, no matter what his previous actions might have been. If this happens, the tree planted by Mandela and his comrades will effectively have been cut off at the roots, and will be left to fade into memory as a bold, shining moment in human history that had the potential to show the world a new way of living and governing.
This is a dangerous moment in the life of our young democracy, arguably more dangerous than 1994 was, and 1990 before that.
If a "political solution" to suspend a case that the party says is "no longer in the interests" of the country is implemented, Pandora's Box will have been opened, and there will be no going back. Building a democracy means more than just ensuring universal franchise, it means living democratically, and as soon as fundamental democratic principles become malleable in the hands of a powerful ruling party, there is de facto no democracy.
And on that note, a word in the ear of Mr Julius Malema, ANC Youth League president. The revolution - bourgeois as it turned out to be - actually achieved its most basic goals, being the foundation of democracy, the institution of unassailable human rights, and the establishment of the rule of law. It goes without saying that the legacy of the past is still with us, and that we have a lifetime of work ahead of us in order to redress this, but it is not counter-revolutionary to suggest that the very principles and outcomes of the revolution be adhered to. I would suggest that Mr Malema take a lesson in the meaning of revolution and counter-revolution before he continues with his argument on this point.
Suffice it to say, I am in despair at the fruit the post-Mandela ANC has borne; fruit that inevitably shows the true nature of the tree. Have we, after all, planted an empty garden? It seems it may be so. And, in the face of that glaring possibility, as well as the fact that there seems little to be done to halt this juggernaut, I can only say in all honesty that I have lost faith.
As a gardener in both the literal and the metaphorical sense, I am losing the will to plant trees.
Photograph courtesy of Mail and Guardian Online (Sapa). See
UPDATE (7 September, 18:10): As upset as I was when I had finished writing this piece this morning, I was heartened when reading the Sunday press to find that many respected publications and journalists are speaking out against recent political developments:
Sunday Independent (Editorial):
The campaign to keep Jacob Zuma, the ANC president, from going to court to answer to criminal charges is an ill-advised move that should have no place in our democracy.
This is a move that must be discouraged by South Africans, who believe, as we do, in the rule of and equality before the law (see Zuma must have his day in court).
Sunday Times (Andrew Donaldson):
I don’t know, gentle reader ... sometimes I feel there’s a darkness coming into our lives. There are echoes of the Cultural Revolution and of Pol Pot, of all reason snuffed out, of death. Of war itself (see Dad, what did Julius do in the War?).
Mail and Guardian Online:
KwaZulu-Natal Judge President Vuka Tshabalala has criticised protests by African National Congress president Jacob Zuma's supporters at courts across the province, South African Broadcasting Corporation news reported on Friday. He said the courts should be left to do their work, adding that pickets would not influence the outcome of the courts in any way (see Top judge slams Zuma court protests).
And then there's always the unfailingly astute and fearless Zapiro, who had the cajones to publish this cartoon in today's Sunday Times (see Zapiro's web site for more):

UPDATE: (8 September, 18:46): Debate is raging about Zapiro's cartoon depicting the ANC president about to rape the justice system, assisted by members of the tripartite alliance. You can follow this very important national discussion at either or on the Mail and Guardian's Thought Leader blog at, and listen to Zapiro's response to criticism of the cartoon at

Here's my ten cent's worth, just posted on Thought Leader in response to an open letter to Zapiro by journalism student, Sandisiwe Vilakazi:

I believe we’re extraordinarily lucky as a nation to have Zapiro. His cartoons are unfailingly astute and fearless, and in the climate of fear being created by the country’s leaders, that is all the more admirable.

John Lennon said it is the role of creative people in a society to express what we all feel; to act as a reflection of the environment. No-one does this better than Zapiro. I, for one, am deeply grateful that his eye is turned on the disturbing events unfolding here. It is voices like his - hopefully - that will prevent us from sliding into latter-day Stalinism.

As for specifics, I think the meaning of the cartoon, as others before me have said, is to show Zuma’s violation of the justice system, assisted by the members of the triparite alliance. To play the race card here is disingenuous. The cartoon isn’t about race, it’s about the actions of the people involved. Get the race chip off your shoulder and stand up and be counted on the basis of belief and action, just as the politicians you defend should be doing.

Um, and by the way, turning that mirror back on you, what do you mean by “you people”? Isn’t that the generalised discriminatory comment that is profoundly and fundamentally racist? Look to you own house Sandisiwe.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008


In celebration of Arbor Week, Penguin Books is promoting a number of fascinating books on climate change, weather, sustainable living and eco-friendly choices. Here's my selection of the best:

The Rough Guide to Climate Change
Robert Henson

For the first time in recorded history, humanity is facing a single, world-wide threat: climate change. This book, from the well-respected Rough Guide series, gives a complete and thorough overview of the issue from all angles.

Cutting a swathe through scientific research and political debate, this completely updated 2nd edition lays out the facts and assesses the options - global and personal - for dealing with the threat of a warming world. The guide looks at the evolution of our atmosphere over the last 4.5 billion years and what computer simulations of climate change reveal about our past, present, and future.
This edition includes new information from the 2007 report from the International Panel on Climate Change and an updated politics section to reflect post-Kyoto developments.

Discover how rising temperatures and sea levels, plus changes to extreme weather patterns, are already affecting life around the world - take the monster storms off the Cape coast, the runaway veld-fires in a parched KZN, and the hurricane battering the Gulf Coast of the US, for instance - all in the last week. The guide unravels how governments, scientists and engineers plan to tackle the problem and includes in-depth information and lifestyle tips about what you can do to help.

The Weather Makers
John Seymour

The Weather Makers tells the dramatic story of the earth's climate, of how it has changed, how we have come to understand it, and of what that means for the future.

Tim Flannery's gripping narrative takes the reader on an extraordinary journey into the past and around the globe, bringing us closer to the science than ever before. Along the way he explodes the many illusions that have grown up around this subject.

A Lighter Foot Print
Angela Crocombe

A Lighter Foot Print compiles the latest research, statistics and information on how to minimise our impact on the environment and counteract climate change.

Written with a focus on Australia, but appropriate reading for everyone, the book uses a tool called the ecological footprint to estimate the resources an individual consumes compared to what nature can sustain. It debunks the myth that green living is not for everyone by detailing simple, practical, day-to-day actions that everyone can take to reduce not only the costs of consumption to the environment but also to our wallets. It also offers really practical means of confronting and dealing with the very serious environmental problems we face today, and empowers every individual to be an active part of the solution to this global issue.

The New Self-Sufficient Gardener
John Seymour

John Seymour’s classic guide gives you the knowledge and expertise to create your own self-sufficient garden and produce what you need. Whatever the size of your space, discover how to garden organically and maximise your harvest, without the need for radical changes to your lifestyle.

From cultivating vegetables to making cider, keeping chickens to training vines, this book will enable you to garden in tune with the seasons; growing for the year, eating for today and storing for tomorrow.

No specialist knowledge required! The clearly-explained principles and practicalities are ideal for any gardener.

Baby Green
Jill Barker

A truly scary fact is that disposable nappies will not have degraded by the time the children they're being used for have lived out their lives. Simply put, the choices we make today about how we care for and raise our children all have a profound impact on the planet.

Baby Green is a guide to making important baby-care decisions. Covering the time from pregnancy through the first year of baby's life, this book will enable you to make informed lifestyle choices and raise your child the natural way.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008


A few years back I bought myself one of those 'fridge poetry sets, and had a whale of a time using it to come up with bizarre lines. The novelty wore off, of course, and most of the pieces are now packed away somewhere, but I did keep two masterpieces up on my food storage unit: "Fetch little party friend" (which is unfailingly a good idea), and "Write now!".
The reason I mention this is that, for those of you who are writers or aspirant writers, you'll know how easy it is to put off writing. There's always something more urgent or pressing, like shampooing the dog, say, or going to tea with great aunt Matilda. The latter admonition, then, is a reminder to myself that there is never a better time to write than, well ... now.

So I'm delighted to be able to tell you that there's a whole new reason both to party and to write (now).
The South African Centre of International PEN (SA PEN) has just announced a new literary award to replace the HSBC/SA PEN Literary Award. The award, for original short stories in English, will be known as the PEN/STUDZINSKI Literary Award (a bit of a mouthful, but hey ...).
John Studzinski, a global investment banker and philanthropist, has generously donated the prize money, and Nobel laureate JM Coetzee has agreed to be the final judge. Award-winning author and SA PEN executive committee member, Shaun Johnson, will pilot the programme, and plans to build on the momentum of the previous awards sponsored by HSBC Bank plc in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

The really good news is that the PEN/STUDZINSKI award now becomes one of the richest literary competitions in Africa, offering a first prize of
£5 000 (around R70 000), a second prize of £3 000 (around R42 000), and a third prize of £2 000 (around R28 000).

So start writing now, little party friends - the closing dates for submissions is 30 September. For further details, click through to