Stormy skies off South Africa
Stormy skies off South Africa

You can certainly tell that winter's arrived in the Cape. This weekend ushered in the start of the stormy season, and all of its usual associated joys, with a vengeance - gusting winds, torrential rain, thunder, the odd flash of lightning and even hailstones that lay thick on the ground like snow in some areas.

But after an out-of-the-ordinary Indian summer that served to lull us all into a false sense of security, the change came as a bit of a shock to the system, arriving as it did so swiftly.

Luckily for us though, and not wishing to gloat, we were able to take full advantage of an aesthetically pleasing, diamond-shaped fireplace, which not only takes pride of place in one of the corners of our living room, but also happens to work.

And fortuitously, after having spent great chunks of childhood at my grandma's, who eschewed the consistent niceties of central heating for the more spasmodic earthy pleasures of a coal fire, I even know how to light one.

But to truly enjoy the benefits of an afternoon spent luxuriating in front of a blazing, open hearth when there's a gale howling outside, serious preparation work is called for. Such things can't be taken lightly - they need planning.

And so it was that my beloved and I found ourselves last Saturday morning among the heaving crowds of the huge, local shopping mecca that is the Somerset Mall, 20km or so away from Stellenbosch in the somewhat more functional, and larger, settlement of Somerset West.

The first thing to bear in mind when catering to the requirements of a perfect stormy day is to ensure that you have the right comfort food available. For general grazing purposes or even lunch, this involves purchasing such nibbly snackettes as dips and pitta bread, crisps and chocolate biscuits.

But to really get those tastebuds going, such naughtiness should always be followed up by an aromatic casserole (in our case, chicken), accompanied by the obligatory creamy mash and the odd glass of red, as opposed to white, wine to wash it all down.

Life-changing inventions

Second, and just as important, is the entertainment. This may comprise books, newspapers and DVDs, either individually or in any combination of the above, depending on your preference. We opted to purchase the first series of Game of Thrones, the US epic TV fantasy drama that so many of our friends seem to be raving about but which has passed us by.

In fact, we're now on episode six (each one is about an hour or so long) but, while undoubtedly enjoying it as a compelling yarn, neither myself nor my beloved are quite as bowled over as expected - although I acknowledge that this is often the case when things have been over-hyped.

The third and final consideration, meanwhile, is having something to look forward to later in the day when cabin fever sets in. While the beauty of your chosen item will be very much in the eye of the beholder, my much-anticipated treat took the form of by far the best (belated) wedding present that I've ever received (I kid you not) - a dual-control electric blanket.

The joy of this truly inspired invention is that, should you and your partner's body temperatures exist in different stratospheres, as is the case with mine and my beloved's, then you need freeze/boil (delete as applicable) no more.

Instead it's perfectly possible, and without argument, to establish the perfect temperature level on your side of the bed, either manually or using a pre-set timer. It's transformed my life. No longer do I reluctantly drag myself away at all hours of the night from our toasty living room to face the ice cold sheets of Dante's hell.

I now positively bound towards the bedroom, as early as I can decently contrive, in anticipation of sinking into the snug, enfolding sumptuousness of our glorious kingsize. It's a revelation.

While a traditional fan of all things literary, I must say that, since being endowed with my new electric blanket, I've never read so much in my life - a fact that hopefully bodes well for my new book club, which I recently established courtesy of the website and which is finally due to hold its inaugural meeting at the end of next week following a couple of false starts.

So in anticipation of this great event, let's just hope that the weather eases up a bit or I could well be sitting in the Basic Bistro, eating my dips and clutching my glass of red, all on my sad, little own-some...


My South African Adventure: 23 Years after Apartheid, Townships Still Mired in Poverty [BLOG]

My South African Adventure: Missing the Charm of the English Pub [BLOG]

My South African Adventure: Forgetting Britain in the Big Freeze [BLOG]

Cath Everett is a resting journalist who has written about business, technology and HR issues for over 20 years. She recently moved from the UK to South Africa with her husband