This lady’s not for turning

One of the advantages of this job is that you get to meet really, really interesting people, like the one pictured (for the record, the interesting one is on the right). But let’s start with Braam Malherbe. One exquisitely balmy pre-spring afternoon a few weeks ago, I lounged in a garden chair near the summit of Lion’s Head chatting to Braam, who – besides having a view from his stoep to die for – is a household name through simply daring to do stuff that the rest of us regard as extreme, to put it mildly. Like co-running the entire Great Wall of China at the rate of a marathon a day or co-racing through the Antarctic. And now, expecting to have to complete two and half million oar-strokes to cross the Atlantic (yes, they’ve worked it out).

Braam and co-adventurer Pete van Kets will be doing their row, which they aim to make a record-setting one, to raise awareness about the planet’s less visible environmental concerns, hence the “Out of sight, out of mind” theme. You can read
about their latest exploit on page 40. Even as we were speaking, Braam’s subject matter was grabbing headlines a short drive away. In the Peninsula’s Deep South, spraying of a herbicide on sidewalks was suspended because it happened to be taking place bang in the middle of the breeding season of the endangered Western Cape Leopard Toad.

Incidentally, attention was drawn to the fact that the endangered Western Cape Herbicide Sprayer happened not to be wearing appropriate safety gear. So it goes. As for the person I am hugging in an entirely appropriate manner: for the uninitiated, may I present Carmen de la Paz. I guarantee that anyone meeting her for the first time will realise within moments that she is really, really interesting. I met the diminutive, effervescent Ms de la Paz during the Working with Wood festival at the Saasveld, George, campus of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. (You’ll soon be able to say the institution’s name in just one breath because, apparently, the Metropolitan bit is to be dropped.)

It would be wholly accurate to describe De la Paz as a star turn. She not only knows how to make a lathe practically beg for mercy, she is also more than capable with a welding machine. Her skill, creativity and engaging style have made her a hit on
countless TV home improvement and DIY channels. But what actually brought De la Paz here was two initiatives: Women in Turning and her global movement, Turners Without Borders. She wants to get more people turning, and more of them women.
Young people, particularly. Because when people think “wood turning”, they tend to think: wrinkled. Grandpa.

Well, she has caused quite a stir. She can’t stop talking about her interaction with the community up the road from George, at Karatara (which sounds great pronounced with a Spanish accent.) A spark has been generated, a flame has been lit and the local woodworking fraternity has committed to keeping the fire burning. Best of all, she herself has committed to continuing her upliftment work here and has already scheduled a return visit.  I don’t know about you, but I rate that really, really interesting.