Weekly Photo Challenge: Victory of a Life

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Victory.”

In January this year my first grandson was born  a very sick little boy. He spent 3 weeks in NICU during which time he stopped breathing and had to be put on a ventilator.  Now 10 months later he is a healthy little boy and each smile is a victory of life and a testimony to the goodness of God. I took this picture early one morning while on a weekend visit in Mpumalanga, South Africa. His smile says it all. His life is victorious and God’s creation is majestic.


Step Into The Past

The small town Clarens lies nestled in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains. Although it is a well known tourist destination it hides a secret, found only by those who leave the centre of town and explore the outskirts.

As we walked down a winding country lane we came across it – The Blanket Shop.

On entering we were greeted by a lovely lady of at least 80 years old, standing behind a shop counter reminiscent of the 1950’s. She introduced herself as Minnie  and invited us in.We were unceremoniously ushered into a back room where Gertie, her almost identical sister was waiting to tell us about the blankets that the shop sells and their history.


The shop was founded by the sisters’ father in the 1940’s and both of them have been working there since 1950.The Blanket Shop sells mainly traditional  Basutho blankets. As Clarens is situated near the border between Lesotho and South Africa,  the majority of their customers are the people from Lesotho who come here to buy their blankets. The Basutho blanket has a rich history interwoven with history dating from the time when South Africa and Lesotho were British  Colonies.


Gertie spread out one blanket after the other on the counter and explained the meaning and origins with the ease of having done so for years.

According to legend, in 1860, a blanket was presented to the then King, (King Moshoeshoe I) by a Mr. Howel. The King was by all accounts quite taken with the blanket (“a handsome railway wrapper made of light blue pilot cloth, heavy and hairy”) and wore the blanket in preference to his then neglected traditional leopard skin karosses. At first only the royal family were allowed to wear the blankets, but soon ordinary people began wearing them too.

These traditional blankets differ from most modern blankets in that they are almost entirely made of wool (88% wool and 12% cotton), hence their rougher and firmer texture.The blankets are manufactured  in Gauteng but all new designs have to be approved the royal family of Lesotho.

The visible stripes on the blankets are known as “pin-stripes”. Historical records indicate that these 1cm stripes originally came about as a weavers fault. Instead of correcting this fault, the manufacturer shipped them with the “pin-stripe” which subsequently became a traditional feature.

The Lesotho blanket plays an important role in the social and ceremonial life of the Basutho people. The way the blanket is worn as well as the design has meaning and a new blanket is used for each milestone in life. Read more here.


Lesotho women wearing different blankets

To this day the designs of the blankets have a distinct British influence. Gertie showed us the heart design influenced by Queen Victoria and the Sandringham design which contains symbols of the British armed forces .

Heart design

Heart design

My favourite was the spitfire on which if it is spread out one can recognise the shape of a spitfire aeroplane and the crown of the British empire.

The spitfire design

The spitfire design

The most popular design for everyday wear is the corncob design.This design symbolises fertility. The well known corncob, from which the main food of the Basutho people, pap is made, is the main focus of the blanket.

Corncob design

Corncob design

We spent a delightful hour  visiting the shop  browsing the various designs and colours of the blankets and listening to Gertie’s enthusiastic tales about the blankets. The shop also sells some ceramics from a local artist.

I trust that Gertie and Minnie will still be there when I visit Clarens again, as they and their shop add to the charm of this beautiful village.

Call Him Tortoise Because He Taught me

“We called him Tortoise because he taught us,” said the Mock Turtle angrily: “really you are very dull!”
― Lewis CarrollAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

The past two years since my husband died I was indeed very dull. In order to survive, memories of our previous home ( which I loved very much ) became dull and far away. I suppressed thinking of home and life as it was before  because thinking only brought back the picture of “that day” when I found him on the bathroom floor.

Spring is all around us and it awakened the desire to get my hands dirty and feel the wet soil while planting plant new plants in the garden. On Thursday after work I stopped at the local nursery on an impulse. I wandered along meandering pathways lined with flowering shrubs and annuals. Around a corner I came across the succulent section and there he was, sitting amongst the echiverias looking as if he was just about to take a bite of the juicy plants around him.

He was an enormous clay tortoise.

I was immediately transported back to our previous home. As we lived out in the countryside, our property was bordered on the one side by a river and on the other by a nature reserve. During the dry winter months water sources became scarce in  the reserve and we had many interesting visitors looking for water in our garden. My favourite was a big tortoise. Each year at the end of the winter he would push his big body with great determination and perseverence through the electrical fencing, in search of life giving fluids.

His favourite place to find this was my border of echiverias. Many  times I found him there eating his way steadily through the plants untill only the stems remained. he would look at me with sticky juice running down his face as if to say:” Thank you for planting these for me”     

Initially it upset me, for he would ruin a whole year’s worth of growth in a day, but after a few years I found myself waiting for him to appear. Now here he was again in the form of a clay tortoise sitting in the nursery with a price tag on his back. I just had to buy him and take him home with me as he, for the first time in two years, brought back happy memories.

I left the nursery with Tortoise sitting in the back of my car. At home I set out to create a place for him to live. Of course he had to live amongst echiverias.  Now he a has a permanent river of echiverias surrounding him and I a permanent reminder of happy times in a previous life.

Tortoise blog

I will call him Tortoise because he taught me to remember the happy times.