The Old Oak Tree

We have been in one or another form of lockdown for over a year now, and having got particularly porky during the first lockdown and then terrified that I would be more susceptible to Auntie Rona because I was SO PORKY and also being BORED because everything was closed and we couldn’t do anything or see anyone…for all those reasons, we have done a lot of walking. So much so that I have completely worn out the pair of trail shoes I got for Mother’s Day last year (hint, hint, HINT).

Autumn Leaves 2

Walking through the suburb makes you REALLY notice the change of seasons – and especially the trees. I now have favourite trees in all of the different roads, I’m particularly fond of the cassia trees that remind me of one of my best climbing trees in the garden of the house I grew up in in Harare. I often will look at a particular tree and think “hmm…that would make an excellent climbing tree,” and have to resist the urge to shin up it. The plane trees are also GLORIOUS now that it is officially autumn and the leaves are falling, a few have been killed by shothole borer but some fight valiantly on. Talking of the dreaded borer, a branch came crashing down from the oak tree in our garden recently and we saw to our horror that it is full of little holes which probably means that it is infested.

There is a story behind our tree.

The trees leaves starting to turn
The leaves starting to turn

It is 97 years old and the reason we know this is that an old man once turned up at our house in 2004 and revealed that he had been born in the house next door eighty years previously and the owner of our house (a commissioner of mines) planted the tree in honour of his birth. So, yes, our oak tree will turn 100 in 2024 – and even if it does not survive that long we will have a party for it when it reaches its centenary and only take it down after that.

Easter lunch under the trees
Easter lunch under the trees

We had the most gorgeous lunch under the trees in our garden on Easter Saturday. We asked people to wear their Easter bonnets and there were some truly fabulous creations (one thing our friends do enjoy is dressing up.)

My friend, Jano reminded me of the argument she had with my husband during one RWF (red wine Friday) about the oak tree and whether the roots are as deep as the oak tree is tall (she insisted they are, my husband disagreed, the argument necessitated research into the roots of oak trees and a flurry of pictures of roots and oak trees being sent back and forth.)

How deep are the roots of the oak tree? has become a running gag between us.

Prince Nigel 2
Prince Nigel
The Old Oak Trees leaves last spring
The Old Oak Tree last spring

The oak tree is also where Nigel the cat got stuck when he shimmied up it as a tiny kitten and couldn’t get down. He clung to the trunk mewing piteously until someone went and fetched him (FYI it wasn’t me that did the fetching.)

Another friend at the lunch commented that she thought I ONLY HAD ONE CAT (as if!!) as Nigel gets too much attention on Instagram, and she feels sorry for the other cats (note to self: make sure all three cats get equal coverage on the gram.)

Although the autumn leaves are beautiful, spring is when you really see the oak tree in all its glory.

During September last year when we were in Plett, the son had to send me pictures of the oak tree on a daily basis so that I did not miss out on the new leaves which are the most delicious acid green – but only for a couple of weeks – before they turn to their normal dark green colour.

I will miss the Old Oak Tree if it doesn’t make it. We all will.

The Son told us that if the oak tree goes, so will he as the house will just not be the same (I had to resist the urge to ask if I could get that in writing). There isn’t a lot we can do for our tree, there is no cure for shothole borer, you have to pretty much wait and see if the tree will fight it off so really this is a gigantic lesson in non-attachment. I am trying to be philosophical about it, and keep telling myself that we have enjoyed this tree for the almost fourteen years that we have lived in this house and if we do have to replace it, it will be with an indigenous tree – but still, I will be gutted.

I can’t help comparing the battle of the trees infected with shothole borer to the covid pandemic: the uncertainty around whether they will be infected and once they are, whether they will survive it. Seeing the trees full of holes and weeping sap is a constant reminder to seize the day and live in the present.

The Sober Diaries

Book recommendations: I seized the day a little too enthusiastically at our lunch on Saturday – the day ended with us cranking up the music and dancing on the patio whilst throwing wine down our throats which although it was enormous fun at the time, didn’t make for a very happy Sunday. As my hangover kicked in at around three a.m, I thought it would be appropriate to reread Clare Pooley’s fantastic memoir The Sober Diaries which is about Clare giving up booze and getting breast cancer. God knows how she manages to make both of these topics funny, but she does. Also, if you’re looking for a lovely, uplifting book try her novel The Authenticity Project.


I had a lot of gossiping to do with my sister who got back from the States on Saturday morning, so I haven’t done much reading this week. But I did start Silver – which is a Chris Hammer thriller set in Australia and I’m finding it very engrossing. I also really lurrrrved his first novel Scrublands. The books deal with journalist Martin Scarsden and as Chris was a journo for thirty plus years they are wonderfully authentic.

I see Chris already has a new book out called Trust, I’m not sure how I missed that, I blame it on my Covidy-menopausal porridge brain.

The Father

Film recommendation: I forgot to mention last week that we went to watch The Father at Cinema Nouveau in Rosebank. The story is very simple, it’s about a father’s slide into dementia and how his daughter deals with it. But the way the story is structured and the performances – wowza!! Anthony Hopkins is superb, Olivia Colman is wonderful – the whole cast is great and even though the film is based on a play, it doesn’t have that stilted, stagey feeling you often get with those kinds of adaptations.

The film also jumps around so you are never sure what is really happening which gives you a little window into the father’s brain as he tries to make sense of his world. Not very cheery but a really brilliant movie AND good news – Cinema Nouveau is doing wine and coffee again!

That’s it for this week. Don’t forget to do some carpe diem-ing of your own, and happy reading! xxx