Monthly Archives: April 2018

Rugby ref becomes solo dad, with a little help here and there

winging itReview: Vivien Horler

Winging It: Jonathan Kaplan’s journey from world-class ref to rookie solo dad, by Joanne Jowell (Macmillan)

Cape Town writer Joanne Jowell was dimly aware of who Jonathan Kaplan was – the Green Point-based international rugby ref. Both she and he are Jewish, share acquaintances, and they’ve bumped into each other socially over the years.

But she’s not much of a rugby fan, and didn’t really know him. Continue reading

Kgalagadi book is fabulous as both coffee table volume and guide

kgalagadi coverReview: Vivien Horler

Kgalagadi Self-Drive – Routes, roads and ratings, by Ingrid van den Berg and Jaco Powell; with pictures by Philip & Ingrid van den Berg, Heinrich van den Berg & Jaco Powell (HPH Publishing)

In our daily lives we’re rarely less than a couple of metres away from other people. But there are places not all that far from here where you can feel as if you’re the only person in the world.

Or as publisher Heinrich van den Berg says in his preface to this magnificent book, during his first visit to the Kgalagadi aged 14, setting next to a termite mound in the heat of the day, he was struck for the first time in his life by a feeling of huge emptiness.

kgalagadi hunt

Snatching supper in the Kgalagadi

But it just feels empty, he says. “In the landscape of an unpeopled desert, in a kind of silence unknown elsewhere, and while experiencing deep solitude, if you sit quietly and patiently, amazing sights and sounds will be revealed.”

The old name Kalahari comes from the Setswana word kgalagadi, which refers to salt pans, or the place where the land has dried up, or a place of no water.

The Kgalgadi Transfrontier Park stretches from the north of the Northern Cape province into Continue reading

Cautionary tales from Britain’s National Health Service could have a lesson for us

your life in my handsReviews: Vivien Horler

Your Life in my Hands: A junior doctor’s story, by Rachel Clarke (Metro)

The Human Kind: A doctor’s stories from the heart of medicine, by Peter Dorward (Bloomsbury/ Jonathan Ball)


The two doctors at the centre of these books are both active in Britain’s National Health Service. Rachel Clarke is a “junior” hospital doctor in her late 30s based in London; Peter Dorward is a much older GP in Edinburgh.

human kindClarke’s book, which came out late last year, is perhaps the more political of the two. She worked as a current affairs TV journalist for around 10 years before training as a doctor, inspired partly by her doctor father to whom she dedicates this book.

I think that from the South African perspective we tend to think the NHS is a wonderful institution compared with the local public healthcare system. And of course in many ways it is.

But Clarke says from the medical staff’s point of view understaffing is at best exhausting and at worst soul destroying. Apart from the danger this exposes patients to, she says another casualty of doctor overstretch is the one that attracted them into medicine in the first place, “our kindness”. Continue reading

Man Booker International Prize shortlist


Works by writers from South Korea, Poland, Hungary, France, Spain and Iraq have been shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker International Prize.

Since 2016 this prize has been presented annually for a single work of fiction – either a novel or a collection of short stories – translated into English and published in the United Kingdom. It is not to be confused with the Man Booker prize, which is for fiction written in English and published in the UK. Continue reading

There’s no beating about the bush with this comprehensive guide

beat about the bushReview: Vivien Horler

Beat about the Bush – exploring the wild, by Trevor Carnaby (Jacana)

When my son was a small boy I explained to him that my Cape Argus colleague John Yeld was the environment reporter, which meant he knew all about the world.

A few days later I was puzzling over a problem. Thomas said: “Ask John Yeld.” Huh? Tom said: “Mom, you said John knows everything in the world”.

John is retired now, so if you need someone like him, Beat About the Bush is probably the book for you and anyone of a curious turn of mind, including small children. Continue reading

Delicious brunch ideas for autumn weekends

Review: Myrna Robins

BRUNCH ACROSS 11 COUNTRIES: Recipes of a private chef, by Alix Verrips (Human & Rousseau)

With a some autumn long weekends to savour, brunch comes to mind as the perfect meal. Whether on a country excursion, lazing at home, or entertaining  friends and family, there’s no better time to combine breakfast and lunch into a long, langorous and relaxed meal, preferably relished outdoors.

All of which makes this new title from local publisher Human & Rousseau both timely and inspirational. Alix Verrips is an adventurous chef who now enjoys life in Knysna, raising money for children’s charities. Continue reading

Dylan – following in the footsteps of the greats

why dylan mattersReview: Vivien Horler

Why Dylan Matters, by Richard F Thomas (William Collins/ Jonathan Ball)

There was a great deal of surprise and even some ridicule when Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016.

But for Richard F Thomas the award provided delightful vindication. A New Zealand-born Harvard professor of classical poetry and a man who gives seminars on Homer, Virgil and Ovid, Thomas also teaches a course on Bob Dylan.

Suddenly, instead of being regarded as something of a maverick, Thomas became the world’s leading academic on Dylan, and everyone wanted to know what he had to say. Continue reading