Thursday, 21 March 2013


Madeira -

The Island of Madeira - the home of my husband's family. The birthplace of rustic Portuguese home cooking, close family ties and endless celebrations. On my of my many holidays spent there, I realised that I would never tire of the perfume of blossoms bursting from every corner of the fact it would be impossible to pin point any particular perfume of flower. The array is endless and how does anyone explain the variety of orchids found in the quaintest of gardens to flower markets in Funchal?

If that does not delight the senses, then the aroma of food spilling out from homes and restaurants are more than enough to entice any fussy eater. The food is lovingly prepared, usually by family owned restaurants. Freshly garden picked tomatoes and lettuce with lashings of olive oil and vinegar, delight the senses. And the food is endless.

My late mother-in-law, Alegria, was a hard working woman, selling Madeira embroidery and ran a successful catering business from home. She catered mostly for weddings and was firmly booked for the doctors annual Christmas party each year. Their one request was her original recipe of peri-peri chicken, which she kept closely guarded, only to be shared with her son and myself, and which will now be shared with you.

The view from our window, The Madeira Palace Hotel.

Members of my husband's family own a flower market in Funchal. Need I say what a delight it was to visit them and walk out with a bouquet of beautiful flowers as a gift?

Alegria, my late moter-in-law, standing in the middle of a bridal couple whom she assisted in every form on their magical day. That included dressing the bride to table settings, decor and food. May she Rest in Peace.

Flowers given to me from Basil in the Flower Market, of Funchal. I must say, it did add some sparkle to my day as we were celebrating Saint Valentines Day with his family. The exhaustion on my face, reflected a harrowing occasion of my mother-in-law's passing away. With only two weeks to spare, we had to bury her, pack her entire house, store some stuff, sell others and donated others. That included a chest deep freezer packed with meat, home made ice cream and containers of biscuits. We barely slept.....

Peri-Peri Chicken
 A recipe created by my mother-in-law and kept as a closely guarded secret.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time:    60 minutes
Serves: 4
1 Whole Chicken, cleaned and cut into portions
4 Cloves of garlic, crushed
1/4 Teaspoon of peri-peri powder
1 Teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 Teaspoon mustard powder
2 Bay leaves
60g Butter to fry
62ml Olive oil
1 Large onion chopped
2 Tablespoons Tomato Ketchup
1 Chicken stock cube
1/2 Cup dry white wine
1/4 Cup water
Salt to taste
1) Blend together, garlic, peri-peri powder, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and Bay Leaves.
2)  Rub the paste onto the chicken portions, place in a bowl, cover with a lid and allow to marinade in fridge for four hours.
1)  In a large frying pan, heat the butter. Remove the chicken portions from the bowl and fry until golden brown. Reserve what little marinade is left.
2)  In a separate frying pan, heat the oil and fry the chopped onion over medium heat for ten minutes.
3)  Add Ketchup, chicken stock cube and fried chicken. Stir fry this for a few minutes, until the chicken portions are coated with the sauce. Now add the wine, water and left over marinade, with salt to taste. Stir until well blended.
4)  Cover pan with a lid and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. This is usually served with fried chips and a salad. Enjoy!

1 Lettuce washed and torn into pieces
4 Tomatoes cut into quaters
2 Carrots, grated.
1 Onion, sliced into rings
Black olives to garnish
2 Hard boiled eggs, cut in half
30 ml Olive oil
1/4 Cup Vinegar
1)  Arrange lettuce leaves on a platter and place tomato wedges on top.
2)  In the centre of the tomatoes, place the grated carrots
3)  Garnish with onion rings, black olives and eggs.
4)  Serve olive oil and vingegar separately with the salad.


Sunday, 3 March 2013

The Oyster Box Hotel in Durban, South Africa, remains one of my favourite hotels. We were regulars in the days before its luxurious revamp and recall lovely teas on the terrace. It retains an ambience of home from home.
The cat curled up on the sofa, still roams the foyer and how I love the bird cage close to the front desk.

The staff are friendly, go the extra mile to ensure their guests are well cared for and delight in helping wherever they can. So, I have decided to spend a little of my time, sharing the beauty of a hotel which rates among the finest in the world. And perhaps to share their famous 'High Tea' which is an experience to indulge in.


High Tea served in the courtyard, retaining the beauty of the Colonial era.

The famous fine dining restaurant. An unforgetable experience.

Seating area adjacent to the foyer.

Lunch served on the terrace is informal, but caters to a high class standard.
The bar area where meals may be ordered from the terrace.
The outside terrace is extremely popular, except on blistering humid days.

The outside car park, close to the entrace and to the left, the entrance to undercover parking.
Disneyworld Florida
Travelling to Disneyworld, we wished to experience the full 'magic' that delighted our childhood and chose a hotel that enchanted us with memories to last a life time.
The entrance to the hotel.

The swimming pool area.

The excellent shopping court in the foyer of the hotel.
The food court which seems to step right out of a comic book.
Fireworks in the Magic Kingdom.
I fell in love with the house of Minnie Mouse.
The charm of Disneyworld at Christmas.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013


I love spending Christmas at home.
What is Christmas without fudge?

Saturday, 8 December 2012





Agonizing cries tore through the dimly-lit Intensive Care Unit, of Saint Andrew’s Hospital,

            ‘Where’s my damn doctor?’ Marco bellowed, thrashing about his bed sheet, ‘where the hell are you?
         Sister Anne, a critical care nurse, leapt from her bedside stool flicking on the over-bed light. ‘Shhh... Mr Cella, its midnight and you’re disturbing the other patients. What’s wrong?’ She whispered as nimble fingers examined his naked body, ensuring the intravenous tubes, catheter and pulse oximeter remained intact.

‘Hell, I’m in agony daft woman! Stop this transfusion immediately!’

‘Shut up!’ A patient yelled in annoyance, ‘Stop being so squeamish, have you no pride? I’m recovering from a cervical fusion and you, Sir, are no gentleman!’

‘Madam!’ Sister Anne thrust her hands on her hips, ‘I’d like to remind you this is not a hotel!’

Her words were deafened by stinging criticism from patients, which spread through the ward like a wasp with outstretched legs.

‘Bloody hell, I’m paying five star hotel prices here,’ a patient raged, ‘shift that sod into the corridor so we can have some peace in here. ‘Hey, you!’ The patient roared at Marco, ‘you howl like a sewer cat on heat!’

‘Silence!’ Sister Anne glared at them in fury, ‘or I’ll lodge a formal complaint against all of you!’    

  Livid by the insults, Marco attempted to move off his bed, ‘Phone Doctor Freeman immediately. Tell that quack I demand an immediate transferral to a private ward.’
‘No,’ Sister Anne rebuked Marco as she neatened the bedcovers, ‘you were seriously injured and require tentative observation. Furthermore, you are attached to cardiac support devices, which will sound off an alarm at the slightest movement. I can’t wake him unless the monitoring devices reflect your vital signs deteriorating. At the moment you’re in a stable condition.’
            ‘Condition? He snapped sarcastically. ‘Is that a word you’ve just discovered in the dictionary? This is more a critical state of affairs! And as for your patients verbal abuse, I’ll take the whole damn lot of you to Arbitration.’
             Ignoring his ranting and erratic breathing, Sister Anne injected morphine sulphate into an intravenous chamber. ‘This will assist towards alleviating your pain, now please try to rest.’  Leaving the light on, she briskly returned to her bedside stool, and pushed her reading glasses on the top of her greasy nose. Flipping through a file on top of her desk, she sighed deeply, bit her lip and recorded information: 12.00am – Patient showing signs of anxiety and aggression.

Shrouded in a flowing gown, Stella stepped out of bed. A sense of serenity and compassion encircled her soul, as her bare feet slid across the cold vinyl floor. Noting that Sister Anne, an elderly woman, seemed more concerned with her paperwork than her fretful patient, Stella moved promptly towards him. Despite bandages swathing his head and eye-shields, she recognised the rugged features of a middle aged man.
            ‘Hello, I’m Stella Stevens,’ her manner appeared sweet and graceful.  
             Startled by the unexpected visitor, he turned his face towards the direction of Stella’s voice.
‘There’s a lady here,’ he announced to Sister Anne.
            ‘Yes,’ she replied without glancing his way, ‘... a lady.’
            ‘Actually her name is Stella Stevens!’ He barked in frustration, but Sister Anne remained silent, focusing on her file she recorded: 12.30am – Patient hallucinating.
            ‘Hush my sweetheart,’ Stella’s soft voice consoled him, ‘Who are you?’
            ‘Marco Cella, but you can call me Marco.’
            ‘Marco, I heard your cries and I’m here to help you.’
            ‘Help me? How the hell can you help me when I can’t even see you,’ he yelled in frustration.
            ‘What happened to you?’ Her hands fluttered down his neck, stroking him gently.
            ‘A reckless sod ran a red light causing a head on collision. Is that maniac alive?’
            ‘I don’t know.’
            ‘When I get out of here, I’ll have him bonded to my banking account! My car is a total right off and now I’m in danger of renal failure, but I’m too young to die. Hell, I want my life back!’
            ‘Marco, I suffered renal failure, but now I’m healed. With intensive medical care you shall survive.’
            ‘Then what am I suppose to do? What if I survive? Who would want a blind man, with no kidneys and a damaged heart? What quality of life will I have?’
            ‘Marco, I’ll never leave you,’ she consoled him.
 ‘Are you mentally disturbed?  You don’t even know me,’ he burst out in annoyance.
            Stella tenderly assured him, ‘Oh, Marco, I think I just recognise pain when I see it, because I had to grow up fast myself. But the pain also strengthened and weakened me in some ways. God moulds us into the people He needs us to be for this world.’
             ‘Oh spare me this God crap!’ he raged. ‘Where was God when my life was wrecked? Is He going to shower a divine healing upon me? I think not!’
            Stella did not respond as tears trickled down her cheek onto her jaw.
            An awkward silence stilled the ward for a while and then his tone softened, ‘Are you still here?’
            ‘Yes’, she responded softly, wiping her face with the back of her hand.
             ‘I can’t sleep,’ he remarked sheepishly.
            ‘Well that’s good news,’ peels of laughter rang out softly, ‘at least we can chat.’
            He smiled despite his discomfort, revealing wrinkles on the side of his face. ‘I wish I could see you.’
             Stella’s eyes sparkled with joy. Dazzled by his smile, she curtsied as she had been taught and kissed his cheek. ‘You will see me,’ she assured him.
            ‘How will I see you? I’m blind! Explain your appearance to me.’
            ‘I’m a nun Marco,’ she replied shyly. ‘There’s not much to say, except that I’m of average height, have blue eyes and long hair.’
            ‘You have long hair?’ He raised his voice, startled, ‘I thought nuns were required to cut their hair?’
‘No Marco, that season has gone,’ she sighed.
            ‘Ah…modern times,’ he rationalised. After a moment of silence, he enquired reflectively, ‘So, you won’t leave me?’
            ‘No Marco, I’ll be your sight wherever you go. My heart will be your love and I’ll share my kidneys with you.’ As Stella’s soft golden curls brushed against his bruised face, her body yielded a perfume of roses. ‘Marco, your hands are in mine, now you are safe.’
            As he felt the gentleness of her slender fingers, suspicion flared in him. ‘How much?’
            ‘Excuse me?’ Sister Anne shot him an angry glance, ‘What did you say?’
            ‘Oh, now you’re interested in what I have to say Miss Smarty Pants!’ He snapped in a brittle tone. ‘Well, I’m not talking to you, I’m chatting to Stella you stupid cow!’ he muttered under his breath.
             ‘How dare you!’ she slammed her hand on the desk and furiously jotted down the time: 1.00am – Patient showing signs of severe aggression.
            Ignoring Sister Anne’s fury, he focused on Stella.’ How much, I asked you? Everything has its price and you obviously want to sell your kidney. My, but you’re a cunning little vixen! You almost had me there, you’re into kidney trafficking! Speak up! A simple yes or no will do.’
            Ignoring his disrespect, she replied in kindness,’ No Marco, I’m not after your money, this is a gift of love. I have more than I need.’
            ‘Love...?’ He scoffed.
            ‘Are you married Stella?
Sister Anne stared at him, shaking her head from left to right.
            ‘Married?’ Stella laughed tenderly, ‘remember I’m a nun.’
             ‘Of course,’ he suddenly felt embarrassed. ‘You speak so easily about love, but have you ever experienced the familiarity of loving a man?’
            ‘I’ve loved someone for many years, but never had the courage to approach him.’
            ‘Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.’
            ‘Don’t be sorry, I eventually realised my calling was to serve God in a vocation.’
            ‘So let me get this straight. You’re going to donate your kidney free of charge to someone you barely know? Won’t your church object to this?’
            ‘No, they believe it’s very charitable.’
             ‘How old are you Stella?’
            ‘Twenty- nine.’
            ‘You’re still a baby. Well, I’m in my mid forties and if this is a cruel joke, I would like to inform you that I’m an attorney.
            Sister Anne dropped her pen in frustration, clearly infuriated by his constant chatter. ‘Hush…’ she hissed, but he ignored her.
            Stella realised that time was short. ‘Ah…an attorney,’ she remarked quietly.
            ‘Yes, I’m a State Prosecutor specialising in Family Law.’
            ‘That must be heart wrenching,’ she caressed his hands.
‘Law is without passion,’ he replied abruptly. ‘I’m referred to as the poisonous spider in court. My bite is lethal in prosecuting entire families who witness child maltreatment in silence. There were times I almost smashed my fist into parents’
jaws. You may wonder why these crimes are hidden within family circles. Why do friends and neighbours not report these barbaric offences to the relative authorities? It can only be described in three simple sentences. People don’t want to get involved. They justify their apathy on the premise that this act is too uncommon to warrant a formal investigative approach. Somewhere in time, the world must step in and prosecute these families for their heinous acts.’
            ‘I wish to devote the rest of my life consoling and praying for those who suffer,’ Stella added.
            ‘That’s impossible. The world is filled with suffering.’
            ‘Well, I’m with you,’ she tenderly kissed his shoulder.
             Marco smiled, taking comfort in her soft caresses. ‘You promise never to leave me, but you’re a nun. So unless you’re intending to flee the convent and elope with me, how do you propose to remain by my side?’
            Before Stella could reply, Sister Anne’s patience wore out. ‘That’s enough! It’s almost 2.00am and I can’t endure another second of your incessant rambling,’ she threw her glasses onto the desk. Seizing a needle, she plunged it into his intravenous chamber.
            ‘Now you’re off to sleep,’ she clipped with satisfaction and returned to her reams of paperwork.’            
            ‘She’s sedating me,’ he cried out.
            ‘I know my love. They did the same to me,’ she kissed his lips as the freshness of her breath stirred intense emotions in Marco, something different to the thrill of lust he experienced with women. Captured by Grace, a self centred veil from his soul, enlightening him to Stella’s humility in its purest form.
Please don’t leave me. I’m afraid.’
            ‘Marco, our lives are united forever,’ she soothed him. ‘Now you should sleep, for tomorrow will be a busy day.’
            ‘Busy? How?  I’m not supposed to move, or I’ll set off these blazing alarms.’
            ‘You’ll wake to a new dawn.’
            ‘You mean I’m going to die?’ He suddenly panicked.
            ‘No, my darling, you’ll have life,’ she lovingly assured him, clasping his hands firmly.
            ‘Stella, I’m afraid,’ his voice slurred as the sedative took effect.
            ‘There’s nothing to be afraid of, your hands are in mine.’
            Within seconds he fell silent.
            Sister Ann sighed with relief, and was about to bite into a cupcake iced with vanilla frosting, when Doctor Freeman and a pathologist burst into the ward. Marco’s files were scrutinised, the monitoring devices meticulously observed and vials of blood were rushed off to the laboratory. Suddenly a hive of activity surrounded his bed.
            Marco stirred awake as the curtain of dawn released golden ribbons of light across the ward. A team of surgeons surrounded his bed.
             ‘Ah, finally awake!’ Doctor Freeman smiled, ‘We have astonishing news for you Marco, all we require is your consent for immediate surgery, but this is a most unusual case.’
            ‘What are you talking about? What news?’
‘A patient donated the cornea of her eyes, both kidneys and heart to you. She insisted you be her only recipient, or she is to be buried intact. Fortunately you’re a perfect match.’
            ‘Someone named me especially?’ Marco questioned in amazement.
            ‘Yes, it’s astounding the two cases are so extraordinarily timed. This lady died at the very moment your life needed saving. What was your relationship to Sister Stella Stevens?’
            ‘I only met her last night. She consoled me after that obnoxious nurse refused to phone you. Quite frankly, when a nurse displays no empathy towards her patients, she has clearly chosen the wrong profession and should be hauled before a disciplinary hearing.’
            ‘Why did you need me?’
            ‘Hell, I was in agony and to top it all, was subjected to insulting remarks from the patients,’ he snapped.
            Matron Marian handed over two files. ‘Doctor, Stella was my patient and died at midnight. Sister Anne recorded that Marco was hallucinating from midnight, and his tedious conversations concerned someone by the name of Stella Stevens.’
            ‘There you are,’ Marco replied smugly, ‘you have the wrong Stella. My Stella is a refined woman and very much alive.’
             ‘Marco,’ Doctor Freeman stared at him, ‘here is a note and a photograph of a beautiful nun attached to a donor certificate. I’ll read it to you.’
Convent of Mercy
            25 September 1986.
            My darling Marco Cella,
            I will be your sight, my heart will be your love and my kidneys will grant you
            Your hands are in mine. Now you are safe.
            You remain in my prayers forever,
             Sister Stella Stevens.
            ‘This was written two weeks ago,’ Doctor Freeman remarked, rubbing his forehead in dismay ‘on the very day you were admitted into hospital.’
            ‘Where did you find it?’ Marco enquired, extremely confused.
            ‘Perhaps it’s best the prioress addresses you,’ Sister Marian beckoned to a black-veiled nun standing in the doorway.
            Marco heard the soft tinkling of rosary beads blending with the rustle of a habit, as she hurried towards him. Seated beside his bed, her strong gaze noted the traces of bruises across the pallor of his face, ‘Marco, I’m Mother Superior Maryanne. Sister Stella suffered complications after major surgery and was declared clinically brain-dead at midnight. Asking for the life machines to be turned off, was not met without heartfelt grief, but I cannot think of a more beautiful way to remember her, as she has granted you life in the form of a donor certificate. I raised Stella in an
orphanage and she displayed a pensive thoughtful side to her young nature, which later added to her aspiring towards the salvation of souls. Standing before the Greater Door, Stella never complained, or uttered an unkind word against anyone. I would personally describe her as a hand planted blossom of mystical sainthood. Extraordinary dispensation from the church was required for this gift of life to you, and I’m sure she is looking down and smiling at us.’
            Suddenly Marco was awestruck by Stella’s words: ‘Your hands are in mine. Now you are safe.’
             His jaws tightened as he recollected a moment in time, so many years ago. Those were the very words he expressed to console a critically injured little girl, after her parents were sentenced to life in prison.
                                          Text copyright © 2012-07-31
                                               Charmagne Goncalves