Burgers & Hip Hop. Cape Town.

Burgers & Hip Hop


What are you doing this Saturday?

“The wife and I are heading out to the winelands to…”


Wrong answer.

“There’s a really cool bar opening at…”


Wrong answer.

“Netflix and chill on…”


Wrong answer.

Stop being silly now.

What you’re doing this Saturday is coming on down to Shortmarket Street, to eat some burgers and listen to hip hop. Take out your diary, write it in there. Lean back and smile that smug smile. You’re allowed to now. You’ve done well sport.

A simple concept that originally began in Berlin, this festival is pretty basic. It’s very basic, in fact. People dig burgers. People dig hip hop. Let’s combine the two. And so they did. The runaway success in Berlin led to outings in Zurich, Paris and more. And now it’s our turn.

Saturday sees the gorgeous Mother City taking centre stage, with six of our best chefs slinging their own interpretations of the iconic hamburger. Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants is privileged to have been chosen as the exclusive meat supplier for the event, and we’ll be joining an all star cast of sponsors, including Puma, And Union and Red Bull Studios. The event has been pulled together by the good people over at The House of Machines and, true to their nature, they have not gone small. A section of Shortmarket Street will be shut down as a result, with the production being handled by Beanstalk. So expect good things. Expect great things, in fact.

Participating restaurants are:

Jason Bakery

Potluck Club

ASH restaurant

El Burro

Royale Eatery

Beijing Opera

In other words, some of the best young talent we have locally.

I’m not sure if you’re still reading this. Maybe you are. Maybe you stopped at the part when we mentioned burgers and hip hop. Together. In one spot. But know this: tickets are selling fast. They’re R200 and can be bought on Webtickets. Limited tickets will be sold at the door but…come on. You don’t want to take that risk.

Saturday will be a good one. It’ll be a celebration of food and music, for sure. But it’s also a celebration of Cape Town. Once again, we have caught the eye of global cities. Let’s show them what we’ve got.

Go forth and eat,

Food by others, Ramblings | Comments { 0 }

2015. Best of.

There is a lot to look forward to for 2016. Young, new owners that have bought Woodlands Eatery and will be stamping their own mark on it. Jason and Brigitte Lilley (of Jason Bakery fame) branching out with a second concept store. A new addition to the Shortmarket Street makeover/facelift/upliftment. And yes, naturally, I am pumped about Ash Heeger opening her jam inside our newly-renovated premises. She is a huge talent and we are lucky to have her. Before we get there, I have taken a look back at some stand-outs of 2015. I have limited these to Cape Town (with one exception), mainly because I didn’t really get to the winelands much at all over the past 12 months. And I definitely didn’t get to Jozi. I have ignored fine dining. I did that because…well because I just don’t like it. Have a read. And let’s try and keep the comments section civil…

Best breakthrough restaurant:

Bronze: Sexy Foods

When a butcher votes a vegetarian restaurant as one of his best of the year, you should pay attention. I will admit, I was VERY skeptical about this one. I didn’t like the name (I still don’t) and I wasn’t crazy about the decor. But I was intrigued. Organic vegetables, with an emphasis on sprouts. That’s a punchline, not a business model. Turns out it’s actually a pretty inspirational business model. On my first trip I was greeted with a menu listing ingredients I had mostly never heard of, combined in ways I would definitely not have thought of. But what hit me when I got around to eating was that everything was oddly delicious. Every dish had been skilfully plated and those whacky ingredients had been used sparingly and with excellent balance. There is a remarkable story behind this brand, and its owner, and I encourage you to go in order to hear it. Go with an open mind and be willing to hear things like “we want you to have the patience of a great tree.” They might also tell you to be “a radiant blue monkey”. Do not laugh. Okay, laugh a little. But do not leave. These guys are hippies but they are unashamedly hippies. It’s infectious. A whacky bunch serving nutritious food that just happens to taste sensational, this is undeniably interesting and it deserves to be celebrated for its willingness to be different.

Silver: The General Store.

Fresh ingredients, prepped and cooked on the day? Check. Good coffee? Yessir. (Rosetta). Attention to detail? You bet. Is the owner on site? Of course.  Throw in the fact that after you’ve enjoyed your meal you can leave with anything ranging from placemats to lemonade to a massive frozen lasagne and we are talking about a place worth going to. The General Store wins best brunch but it could easily win best lunch too. Choose from a host of salads, enjoy them in one of the coolest hole-in-the-wall spaces you’re likely to see, or load up a take away container. It’s hard not to compare this style of food to Ottolenghi. So I will. Guys, it’s like Ottolenghi. 

Gold: The Hog House Brewery.

Opening a BBQ-themed restaurant is risky. Doing it in an industrial park is riskier. Doing it in an industrial park in Ndabeni is basically career suicide. Somehow, PJ Vadas has made it work. It might have something to do with the enormous amount of research he did on smoking meat. It might have something to do with the crack squad team he assembled. It might have something to do with the attention to detail within the space. I don’t really care. The end result is a masterclass in unpretentious food, escalated to a level that still feels like an experience. The beer being brewed on site is excellent (the porter being particularly impressive) and this, coupled with the recent addition of Hog House Cafe on Spier’s premises, has catapulted this start-up to a serious player in the space of 12 months.

Honourable mention: Outrage of Modesty

Yeah, I know. It’s not a restaurant. But there is a small amount of food on offer and, well, this is my page so just deal with it. Serving cocktails that are north of R80 was always going to be a push. Doing it through a reservation system was also pretty ballsy. But the same team that brought you The House of Machines has nailed it again. A clean, minimalist bar with absolutely zero branding is the first change you’ll notice. (Actually, you won’t notice; that’s the point). The second thing you might pick up on (or not?) is each cocktail being vague about what spirit is actually in there. That’s not a cagey tactic so that they can sneak some KWV in there while you’re not looking. That’s also deliberate. The idea here is that people just choose flavours they enjoy. Don’t overthink it. Trust the professionals to be the professionals. Trust the fact that the menu has been meticulously developed. Because it has. I love this place for the courage in their actions. Pushing boundaries and forcing people to re-examine their ideas of cocktails and the environment they’re supposed to be drinking them in.

Underrated restaurant of the year: 

Bronze: The Culture Club.

This should ruffle a few feathers. I can almost feel the collective eye roll from here. I mean, The Culture Club? That place that sells cheese? Yes. That place. “But how? They aren’t even a restaurant!” They are, in fact. Considering the process(es) that are involved with cheese making, I feel that a small cafe that proudly puts the end products on a pedestal deserves recognition. On top of making their own, the owners source the best – and I do mean THE BEST – cheese in the country. And some from further afield. If you like produce-driven menus and seasonality you will like this place. If you like fermented foods, you will like this place. It does have toasted cheeses, yes, (and they are magnificent) but it is also a place to enjoy duck rillettes on toast. Or a pulled lamb shoulder mixed into a salad with pomegranates. Or a mac ‘n cheese. Or a pulled pork sandwich.

Silver: A Tavola.

Call me old fashioned, but every now and then there’s something I like about sitting at a table with a white table cloth and a thick red carpet. I like an interesting wine list. I like having internal Goodfellas dialogues. I like attentive, friendly service. And I really like Italian food, done well. This place has all of that. Yes, when you arrive the average age of the room will drop to about 82. Just go with it. You won’t have a view. You won’t have fancy stemware and unusual cocktails. But sometimes you just want to eat a bowl of pasta.

Gold: The Table at de Meye

The fact that this, for me, is the most underrated restaurant in the Cape, is important. Important because it is, in fact, highly rated. Just not highly enough. It should be winning awards every year on platforms with a much bigger audience than this. Owners Luke and Jess are the perfect hosts and form the ultimate partnership, albeit one that is slightly quirky. Their casual approach absolutely adds to the entire experience and I have often described this restaurant as “a place that feels like you are just going to a friend’s house for lunch”. (A friend that can wipe the floor with more “illustrious” chefs.) The Table is more committed to sourcing ethically-reared, seasonal and sustainable produce than any of the more celebrated restaurants on our eating scene and the way Jess cooks and presents the end dish is unique, beautiful and highly memorable. Throw in Luke’s front of house ability and the fact that you literally sit at tables beneath trees on a huge lawn and this is a very special place. The catch? It’s only open on the weekends. Book in advance and take a drive. Eat too much. Drink too much. Lie on the lawn.

Comeback restaurant of the year: 


A few years ago I Tweeted about the Clarke’s burger. At the time people were calling it the best in town. I ate it. It tasted like a vetkoek. It was so greasy I actually just wanted to go home and take a shower. One or two equally underwhelming meals led me to write this iconic spot off as a food option. I continued to go there, but mainly for the Bloody Mary and the Friday beers. Last year, something happened. Something changed. I braved the burger again and it was brilliant. A new bun, a different grind and an altogether knock out hamburger. I went back for lunch the next day and tried a salad. A beautiful bowl of fresh and balanced ingredients floored me. I was pleasantly surprised and washed it down with some pineapple-infused kefir water, which was another sign of the work being done behind the scenes. Maybe the ultimate tipping point came when my wife and I settled in on a random weekday and decided to try the R10 oysters. Salty, briny, perfectly sized. And tasty. Served straight up with Tabasco, lemon juice and a mignonette, these might be the single greatest food discovery of 2015. I mean, TEN RAND? Are you kidding me? I tried everything at Clarke’s last year. Saturday brunches, Sunday breakfasts, weekday lunches, boozy dinners, quick coffee breaks. They nailed it all. I’m not saying Clarke’s ever became unpopular (it pumps) but it has won me back in a massive way.

Restaurant of The Year:

Bronze: Hallelujah

The lobster rolls are nice. The pickled vegetables are nice. But the duck tacos are better than nice. On a recent visit, where I was introduced to a new dish built around the delicate flavours of angelfish and shaved coconut, I really sat up and took notice. This place is getting more and more ambitious. Pickled octopus is now on there too (served with soba noodles), along with the already popular classics. If you want a place to get some delicious, fun and consistently good food this is it. Choose from a small but well-curated wine list or enjoy it all with an ice cold beer. Hallelujah remains a restaurant that I would gladly go to for an anniversary dinner, a boozy dinner with mates, or to celebrate the big deal you’ve been working on for months. Arrive in slops. Arrive in sneakers. Arrive in a bowtie. They will not care. Long live the flamingo.

(FYI: this is also winner of Best Website by a country mile)

Silver: Pot Luck Club

Two years ago if a friend from out of town was visiting, I would take them to The Pot Luck Club. Today, nothing has changed. I still do. The reasons have changed, however. Slightly. Back then I was going for the “wowness”. The crazy views. The open-plan kitchen. The theatre of certain dishes. The all-out vibe of the place. If I’m honest – and I mean really honest – I think there was a hint of style over substance. The food was good but it wasn’t amazing. Today it is amazing. It is flat-out delicious food which showcases interesting and unusual techniques. I would eat this food in the basement of an office park. In Joburg. Oh, it still has those views by the way. They aren’t going anywhere.

Gold: Chef’s Warehouse

By now, you’re probably halfway through compiling a reply to this post. It could disagree with plenty of things I’ve had to say here. In fact, it should. I accept that. These are just normal opinions from a normal dude. One thing I won’t accept easily is an argument against Chef’s Warehouse cooking the tastiest food in the city. Bite-for-bite, mouthful-for-mouthful I just haven’t found anything better. And if you tell me you have, I’m going to have a hard time accepting that. I’m not the only one either. Ask a decent chef in this town where he/she eats on their day off and 9 out of 10 will say Chef’s Warehouse. There are a lot of cool things happening in 2016 but this tiny restaurant remains the benchmark.

Most influential person of the year:

Luke Dale-Roberts.

Look guys, I’d like to say there’s a new face dominating the scene. There isn’t. Just the same face, kicking arse and constantly reinventing his offerings. Test Kitchen is the best fine dining restaurant in the country. That’s a fact. Pot Luck Club is cooking the best food it ever has. That’s a fact. The new baby, Naturalis, is set to add something different to the stable and breathe some fresh air into The Biscuit Mill. Throw in a pop-up at The Saxon, plans for a Shortmarket Street concept and one or two other projects that are already doing the rounds in the rumour mill and it’s hard to even nominate a local chef with as much pulling power. When Luke talks, people listen.

Chef of the year:

Wes Randles.

I know I said there wasn’t a new face dominating the scene. But there could be. Wes Randles will be in charge of the new Shortmarket project and I expect big things. At Pot Luck Club, Wes has emerged from his mentor’s (fairly daunting) shadow and is cooking his own style of food with so much confidence and authority and technique that it is now a serious restaurant that could draw the crowds even without the jaw-dropping views. With recent Eat Out accolades, Wes has put Pot Luck Club in the same category as the country’s most serious restaurants. And he is done it by not taking things too seriously. The past year saw some obvious growth in the offering at Pot Luck, as well as the guy doing the cooking. He has the momentum and 2016 should be another big year.

That’s it. Some highlights of the past 12 months. I’m sure you have some of your own. Let’s have a chat?

Go forth and eat,






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Food by others | Comments { 2 }

How not to be a dick this festive season.


Owning a retail brand is almost worth doing just for the study in human behaviour that comes with it. Standing behind a counter and taking money in return for handing over a product offers amazing insights into society. It really does. You would think it would be a simple process. It isn’t. Yes, some customers are great. But some aren’t. Don’t be a dick this festive season. Follow the guidelines below and not only will you feel better about life in general, you’ll also actually receive better service. Show respect. Get respect. It’s that easy.

1.Be polite. Chances are that person has been on shift for a few hours. A simple “Hello, how’s it going today?” will go a long way in setting the stone for what will follow. So will words like “please” and “thank you”. Remember the manners that you teach your kids? Time to practice what you preach.

2. Be patient. Christmas is crazy. You know that. There’s something in the air at this time of the year that makes everyone act weird. Try and understand where the person helping you is coming from. Ask yourself if waiting an extra 5 minutes is really going to destroy your day. It probably won’t.

3. Be forgiving. Brands make mistakes. People make mistakes. The good brands and the good people will do everything they can to fix these. Try and show some leniency. More often than not, there was no malice intended. Something just fell through the cracks. Listen to the possible solutions before freaking out.

4. Be sure. Some business owners have beards. Some have tattoos. Some wear sneakers with their skirts. There might even be piercings involved. If you want to speak to a manager or owner, ask the person assisting you first if they have the authority to hear you out.

5. Be calm. Take a few deep breaths when things go wrong. (If they go wrong.) Is it worth the swearing? Is it worth the tantrum? Is there a civil, rational way to try and resolve an issue? Explore these.

6. Be kind. Sometimes, just sometimes, a brand does a good job. Thank them for it. Take a few minutes to send a mail, make a call or – even better – tell them to their face. Trust me, it will mean the world to the staff.

7. Be respectful. For some, service isn’t a last resort. It is a choice. Hospitality is a tough career but there are a few people who have chosen it out of a crazy sense of pride and passion. Instead of treating someone serving you like an actual “servant”, listen to their advice. They are not inferior. Ask questions. Communicate. Enjoy it, even.

Most of all, bear in mind that while you’re enjoying a well-earned holiday, that poor bastard sweating it out is having the busiest, most stressful time of the year. Let’s not make it worse for them.

Go forth and eat,


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The Hog House Brewing Company

Hog House Brewery

“If you build it, he will come.”

This is the voice I hear in my head as I pull up outside a (quite ugly) industrial office park in Ndabeni. We are here looking for The Hog House Brewing Company and there is a definite parallel to The Field Of Dreams, where our hero built a baseball field in order to summon up his beloved team, the White Sox. Today we are The Sox. Except it’s not baseball we are here for. It’s BBQ. And our hero isn’t a corn farmer. He’s a chef.

When PJ Vadas told me he was going to be opening a BBQ / Brewery concept I was stoked. Really stoked. Then he told me the venue. And I was worried. Would people really drive out to the middle of nowhere to eat smoked meat and drink beer? Well, if the first week of this restaurant being open is any indication, then the answer is yes. And they aren’t even licensed yet. (BYOB for now)

Here’s the thing about PJ. He believes his food is excellent. Because it is. And in an age where most restaurants are offering crazy winter specials just to try and get people in the door, he has the belief that he will simply cook food that is so delicious people will make an effort to get there. That’s refreshing. With a pedigree that includes working in some of the world’s greatest kitchens, before running some of ours, he has managed to take his classic training and apply it to the art of BBQ.

“The art of BBQ?”

That’s what I said. BBQ is a highly specific, highly developed skill. As with any other form of cooking, it needs to be learnt. And practiced. And perfected.

At The Hog House, they are pretty close. With a menu built around brisket, you can also take a pick from pulled pork, buttermilk chicken, sausages and various specials (on my visit it was lamb ribs and a loin of pork). The sides are far more than an afterthought, with mac ‘n cheese, kimchi pineapple, coleslaw, bread and butter pickles and even their house-made hot sauce all deserving a mention as well-executed examples. Bar snacks like burnt ends croquettes and wild mushroom arancini are good enough to be dressed up and served as parts of fancier dishes at fancier restaurants. But here, they are served in a bowl. As the star. Take it or leave it. (I took it, by the way). Indeed, with the exception of one hiccup – a bizarre, overly strong cardamom ice cream – the meal was pretty much flawless.

If you’re looking for starched white linen and waiters in waistcoats give this a miss. Here you’ll get knives and forks in a bucket. And metal canteen trays with wax paper. You won’t have someone wiping your crumbs off your table. You’ll do that yourself. With messy, sticky, smoky fingers.

It’s awesome.

As the category of smoked meat and BBQ grows in this country, there is currently one venue and one chef standing head and shoulders above the rest. If we stick with the Field Of Dreams analogy, someone has just hit a home run.

The details: Hog House Brewing Company, 42 Morningside Road, Ndabeni. (021) 810-4545.

Go forth and eat,




Food by others | Comments { 1 }

Call to action: revised National Liquor Policy.

So the newly drafted National Liquor Policy has been issued. It found its way into my inbox through a number of irate restaurateurs. These people are friends of mine, whose livelihood depends on such laws. Hence the…umm…”agitated” tone that was used.

It is a well known fact that running a restaurant is one of the hardest things you can do (many, many more fail than succeed). Perhaps a lesser known fact is how much a restaurant depends on the sales of booze to support it. The successful ones will make delicious food, using clever cost of sales to plate a finished dish. They’ll have mark-ups and margins that enable them to reach a price for the end plate of food. But it is incredibly tight, once you factor in staff, running costs, rent etc.

Imagine taking away any cash made through selling booze.

The restaurant industry would collapse almost overnight. That’s not an exaggerated statement. The industry would die. Your favourite local bistro? Gone. The Italian institution that has been there for three generations? Done. The burger joint that brought some energy into your neighbourhood? Sorry. The second store that the mega popular restaurant on the other side of Cape Town FINALLY announced was opening. Well…it probably won’t anymore.

Never mind the hundreds of hundreds of jobs that will be lost.

Anyway, needless to say the proposal is a massive, steaming pile of shit. Some of the content is outlined below:

“Amongst other things it proposes changes to the following matters that will have an impact on the City’s Control of Undertakings that Sell Liquor to the Public By-law and the enforcement thereof:
• Liquor premises to be located at least 500m from:
o schools;
o places of worship;
o recreation facilities;
o rehabilitation or treatment centres;
o residential areas; and
o public institutions;
• No liquor licences to be issued to:
o petrol stations and premises attached to petrol stations;
o premises near public transport; and
o areas not classified as entertainment or zoned by municipalities trading in liquor.
Places in areas listed above who already have licences should have licences terminated within two years”

In other words, basically every venue with a liquor license will have theirs taken away. It’s ridiculous and unfair and it needs to be fixed. But you can help. You can object. If you agree with any of the above, please say so. Speak up.

You may submit any objections to: nramphele@thedti.gov.za

Go forth and eat,



. . .

Ramblings | Comments { 3 }

Angelo Scirocco.

Luke Dale-Roberts. Margot Janse. Liam Tomlin. Bertus Basson. Any self-respecting South African foodie will know these names well. But who the hell is Angelo Scirocco?

Let me tell you.

He’s the guy who has been hand-picked to represent an entire continent in a global search for the best young chef in the world right now.

That’s quite something.

Quite why this story hasn’t received more attention is beyond me. Angelo has clawed, kicked and scrapped his way to the top of a pile of local hopefuls to now be standing amongst peers from as far as Australia, Norway, Canada and China. He has conceptualised a dish and executed it perfectly. He has remained calm in intense, fierce pressure situations and he has spent every spare second (he is the sous chef at Chef’s Warehouse so his day-to-day life is hardly a breeze) tweaking and trying to perfect an already accomplished dish.

In a few days he flies to Milan to represent the Africa/Middle East region at the San Pellegrino Young Chef Awards. He will be cooking for a panel including culinary powerhouses like Gastón Acurio, Yannick Alléno, Massimo Bottura, Yoshihiro Narisawa, Joan Roca and Grant Achatz. Even to be standing in front of chefs of that caliber is an incredible achievement.

I don’t know Angelo well but I do know this: that guy is a true chef. When I deliver a box of unexpected meat (I do that a lot at at Chef’s Warehouse!), his eyes light up. You can see him thinking how he’s going to cook it. How he’s going to portion it. What he’s going to do with it. He is ambitious, hard-working and humble. He plates food beautifully but he can talk tails, trotters and offal better than most his age. He is part of a young bunch of chefs emerging in this country that we should all be celebrating. I don’t know if his dish will win in Italy but I do know that he should have received far more credit than he has. Just for getting there.

The dish he’s submitted is titled Milk is Thicker Than Water. It is a complex, elegant interpretation of panna cotta, showcasing textures of milk in various forms. By concentrating on milk fat content he has created a light, floral dish with delicate subtleties. It is a beautiful plate of food but – as with any good chefs – flavour was what drove it.

I’ll be rooting for him in Italy. But in my eyes the guy has already won, just for putting South Africa on that stage.

Go forth and eat,


P.S. You can vote for Angelo’s dish by clicking the link below:

Vote for San Pellegrino





Ramblings | Comments { 1 }

FFMM kitchen staff wanted.

A few months ago I wrote an open letter to a chef. I didn’t know who I was writing it to. I just knew that I was writing it to someone. That someone needed to be fearless, passionate, more than a little bit crazy and ready for one of the hardest jobs in the world – launching a successful restaurant in Cape Town.

I wasn’t ready for the response. It was humbling to see the caliber of people who seemed interested in what we wanted to do. (Simple food, cooked perfectly.)

We were considering our options when I received a reply from a chef based in London. Trained in South Africa, I had already been following her progress with interest. Having worked at some of San P’s top 50 restaurants, she ticked all of the boxes, plus a few more that we didn’t even know existed. Anyway, fast forward a bit. A flight over from London. A four hour meeting. About 25 coffees. We had ourselves a deal.

Needless to say, we are pumped about our plans. We have punched way, way above our weight in getting her on board. But now she needs your help. Maybe. She is recruiting staff who want to be part of the journey, and wrote the below letter as an invitation.

Have a read.

Young Chefs of South Africa,

A few months ago I read a letter written by Andy Fenner. I read it, then I read it again. It was like the letter was written directly to me, I couldn’t believe it. Within the next couple of hours we had changed the course of our lives and had decided to open a restaurant. A rather quick turnaround time, but for those of you who know Andy and myself, you’ll know that we are both passionate people. That being said, when you know, you know.

So here we are. Now I’m writing a letter to you, the young chef looking for their start, that career first, or career maker even. Are you ambitious? Do you want to cook? Do you know where your ingredients come from? Do you want to? Do you want to smoke, pickle and ferment anything your heart desires? You don’t know how to ferment? I can show you. Smoking? Done. Ever wondered what it would be like to break down an entire carcass of an animal? You can.

Now, I’ve been around the block and seen a thing or two. I’m ready for change, a paradigm shift. A step away from pretense and “fine dining”. You won’t find any white table cloths here. Sorry. In fact, we won’t even set the table. There won’t be a waiter dressed as a penguin eyeing out your table, waiting for you to place your napkin down so that he can fold it into a swan or something equally as old school before you return to the table.

We’re going to be about food. And wine. Lots and lots of wine. Twenty items on a plate? No. A foam made from the milk of a virgin goat from the Andes? Doubtful. I’m talking food with balls. Food with heart. Literally, we’ll have heart on the menu.

You’ll be part of a family. A family where the talent is limitless and the opportunity to grow is everywhere. This is your chance to become part of something that may change the way we dine in Cape Town. We, along with Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants and Publik Wine Bar, are going to do something big. A game changer.

It’s not going to be easy. In fact, it may be the hardest thing you’ll ever do. But it will be worth it, trust me.

Have you got what it takes?

What do you reckon? Want to be part of something? Drop us a line.


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“Carpe Diem.”

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

“Life’s a journey, not a destination”.

These were exactly the kind of quotes that I used to roll my eyes at. For me, they belonged on a laminated poster, peeling off the wall of my Matric guidance counsellor. Throw in a picture of a beautiful sunset, a black and white portrait of a sports star, or a mountain range covered in snow, and you’re pretty much describing one third of the first year students’ rooms I saw at varsity.

But that all changed on Saturday.

On Saturday my wife said goodbye to her stepdad for the last time, after a year of fighting Leukemia. I say stepdad, but this is the man who raised her. He made her school lunches, taught her how to ride a bike and – I’m guessing – reacted to her first boyfriend like an over-protective bear. The man was enormous and I know he scared the shit out of me when I first met him. (Nothing a homemade butter chicken and a few beers didn’t sort out though.) Our relationship went from strength to strength from there. Indeed, when I proposed, it was his house that I drove to to ask for permission. 

For a year I have watched my wife and my mother-in-law suffering. They have been victims too. That’s the thing about this fucking disease; it affects far more people than the patient. It affects everyone they know. Everyone they love. Both women have been as strong as possible. Both are not strong enough. Not yet, anyway.

Over the last few weeks, as things deteriorated, I have had lots of time to reflect. Hospital cafeterias aren’t good for much but they’re good for thinking. And those same cheesy expressions, previously meaningless to me, suddenly took on new substance. The exact phrases that used to sound so lame now carry the weight I need. Because there has to be a silver lining to this agony. Surely?

The only one I can see is to stop taking life for granted.

If you have an overseas trip that you’ve always wanted to go on, book it. If you have a bottle of wine you’ve been saving for a special occasion, drink it today.

Today is that special occasion.

Tell your loved ones how much they mean to you. Take an extra 30 minutes in the morning to play with your kids. Walk your dogs on the beach. Phone your parents. Hike up a mountain. Enjoy the views. Dress up and book the fancy restaurant. Eat the second piece of cake. Drink the second beer. Worry less about work. Worry more about family.

I’ve learnt a lot through this thing. I’ve learnt that humans are stronger than we realise. And I’ve learnt that humans are weaker than we realise. Nobody should have to endure what I’ve seen two generations of women go through over the last year. But they have each other to lean on. If you have that person, make sure they know it.

We lost a great man this weekend. But hopefully with that loss we can gain some perspective too. Life is there for the living. I drained two pints at Den Anker and ate as many mussels as I could on Sunday. I’d normally be starting to plan my work week, worrying about deliveries, deadlines, clients, orders and basically how I’m going to carry on making enough money to keep a start-up business afloat. Instead, I had a drink. And a laugh. Another cliche crossed my mind… “It’s what Ron would’ve wanted”. Finally, finally I think I know what people mean when they say that. You need to feel it to understand.



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