Saturday, April 21, 2018

My road to Mecca

While I was gone only one plant died.
The rest survived the thirteen days without supervision.
Every day since returning I've watered, checked and prodded at the sandstone plant pot on my kitchen counter.
Ever hopeful.
Today, two tiny and fragile green shoots.
At last!
The drought, the death is over.
Life again.

I'd given up hope. Was wondering what my purpose was.
I don't believe that I've written a meaningful word since Meat Bomb last year.
Even my empty-feeling and sporadic blog posts petered out in January.
Right now I'm so filled with words and emotions that I'll explode: there'll be meat, gore and unfulfillment splattered everywhere as if I'd taken a pistol to my brain.
An exploded hand grenade of words; the most dangerous hand grenade of them all.

Last night, at the Fugard, I watched Athol Fugard's (how apt) The Road to Mecca. It unfolded on a one- and simple-set stage: Helen Martin's house in Nieu Bethesda, in my beloved Karoo.
Last night, in the gallery at the theatre, was my turning point: always keep lighting candles against The Darkness, which even leaks and oozes into us from the chimney.
Also, paint and paste your life full of colour and glitter, even if your hands are ruined and are made arthritic during the process of grinding multi-coloured shards of beer bottle glass. That's before then crushing them fine in an old-fashioned coffee grinder because you have nothing else.
Let your light and your freedom shine, despite how dark and constricting your jail cell might appear to be.

Also. I've fallen in love over the last three weeks. In the most unexpected way.
Not only does he guard his emotions to the point of expressionlessness, but he landed back in Bangkok three hours ago.
He's petrified of being hurt, again. I'm petrified of not risking to fall in love. Because life is short and love doesn't come around that often.
Perhaps our paths will never cross again, even though this country is his home.
Perhaps I'll never know how he truly feels, if he even feels. But, that's not the point: I loved when I could, and - in the moment - gave fully, freely and passionately of myself.

Getting older doesn't necessarily by any means mean less pain. But, I have - at least - learned to let someone walk across the open palms of my widespread hands. That as opposed to clenching them shut and trying desperately to control and to hold on. At all cost. Like I used to do. When younger and less alive.

He is free. I am free. My heart is wide open to life.

Again, exactly because my nerve ends are bloody raw and jagged, I know that I Alive.
Alive with a capital A.

Sunday, January 28, 2018


Sunday morning. I'm sitting with my first coffee. After having completed my Pages. My notebook is on my lap and I'm in my favourite place: on my old and comfortable wicker chair that's thrust up between my sunbed and against the full-length window, my plants.

My gaze: Over Woodstock and Devil's Peak, along with The Mountain, all of the way over the City Bowl and to Lion's Head, which just makes it inside of the far right edge of my vision's frame.

Blue sky and bright-golden sunshine; I should get out today. And take the bus to Hout Bay. So as to walk, barefoot, the sandy length of one of Cape Town's less populated, and least pretentious beaches. To feel sea sand and ocean between my toes, against my skin.

Against the peace and stillness of this morning, which is the same quiet and contentment that overfills me, BBC3 is playing; it's the least intrusive of the bouquet of radio stations that I allow, quietly, into my space.

Yesterday, despite the south-easter doing its utmost to put me off leaving the flat, I made it out and in-between things ended up walking 10 km; I also made it to the 6pm mass at St. Micheal's in Rondebosch and took communion. It caught my attention that there was neither a black or brown face in the entire congregation, very few youths too.

By chance, and as I'm typing these words a bell is chiming. I believe that it belongs to Woodstock's St Agnes's Catholic Church.


Every day, for inspiration, I read a short chapter of Natalie Goldberg's 'Writing Down the Bones'; the words are what pierced my consciousness today, especially since the concept of 'freedom' emerged strongly in my morning pages:

'There is freedom in being a writer and writing. It is fulfilling your function. It means knowing who you are, what you are supposed to be doing on this earth, and then simply doing it. It is not getting sidetracked, thinking you shouldn't write any more [about whatever your writing obsessions are].'

It feels like I've not written a single meaningful word since returning from Uganda in September. Nor, I believe, a single meaningful blog post, which are in any case rare. My toxic perfectionism gets so badly in the way. Of many things.


The bell is still tolling and it's piercing me in a wonderful way that I cherish.


Despite the sunshine's warmth and brightness, also the cobalt sky, my heart yearns today for the far north, which is where I spent three precious weeks spread around Christmas and New Year.

The moodiness, moisture, cold were in stark contrast to the drought and tinderbox dryness of home; in the last week it has finally hit home to everyone: it's almost a guarantee that Cape Town will be the first major city globally to run out of water.

Bosham, which I spent an afternoon exploring, for the first time, is a coastal village about 2 miles west of Chichester. In West Sussex. Inhabited since Roman times and, like much of the area around Chichester, it is believed to have played a significant role way back in A.D. 43 when the Romans invaded England.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Quote / unquote: We have reached a point no return

Captain's Log: 93 days to Day Zero

It's 20h25. Thursday night. I'm on my second tumbler of a fine Chenin Blanc that was on promotion at the supermarket. 

My brow is clammy, my body sticky. It was, apparently. 29 degrees centigrade today, but to me, felt much hotter, much more unpleasant than that.

An interesting day for me today: It's the first time that I've considered beginning to buy water and to hoard it in my flat. For Day Zero. It's, also, the first time I've felt fear about our water running out.

It's still light, although the sun set at about eight. On the other side of The Mountain. 

It's particularly beautiful outside; despite the south-easter is howling, which means that I can't - without risk - open my sixth-floor sliding door with its awesome views over Woodstock, Devil's Peak and, then to the right, Table Mountain. It's so beautiful that, for a brief moment, I force open the door against the howling, whipping, shredding wind and take some photos as quickly as possible with my phone. Because everything is being blown to smithereens  It's not for nothing that I nickname my adopted suburb 'Windsock':- ask me, the south-easter - can hand down - beat the living shit out of a grown man.

My context is important (north/south, dry/wet): A week ago I returned to Cape Town from the UK, where I'd spent three weeks; an intense, wonderful, Christmas with my ageing mother. 

A week later I'm listening to The Wind. And, on YouTube, to Bach's Preludes and Fugues (BWV 869 & 894). Which I find relaxing. While a beaten up old Chinese-made fan does it's best to sporadically caress my bare back, and between my sips of wine from the blue glass.

When I got back last week, my first commitment was to get to the gym with the aim of working off, despite my many miles of walking, the three pasty and Christmassy kilograms I'd unevenly plastered to my frame, but mostly around my waist. 

The changes at the gym were immediately obvious: there was a man-size poster loitering at the entrance to the male change rooms making it clear that the city was no confronting Level 6 water restrictions. Also, after my exercise, when I made it to the shower there was a noisy, obvious timer measuring two minutes before bleating like a stuck sheep. Not only was a grey bucket in the shower cubicle to collect the grey water, but you had only two short minutes to shower. Not to mention that months ago already, the sauna and steam room were switched off and closed, that the two pools were no longer being topped up.

It's now serious. Also, the tone has changed in this onslaught against the city, where we are being crippled by the worst drought in a century. Even worse is the uncertainty that there will ever again be enough water; it's called climate change. No-one, not even the scientists at the city's university knows anything for certain; predictions no longer work, nor can they be relied upon; this is a new and pretty scorching territory for all of us.

Also, now, before sitting down at my desk to write this, I read an article posted on The Guardian today: 2017 was the hottest year on record without the El Nino boost, also that data shows that it was one of the hottest years ever recorded; 'scientists' are warning that the 'climate tide is rising fast'. 


As I said above, today was an interesting one for me; it's left my stress levels severely raised and has me questioning my priorities. For example, is it worth even chasing a doctorate? What really does matter anymore? Genuine question.

This same day the City of Cape Town hosted a press conference. Day Zero, an ominously shifting date that increases or decreases according to a variety of factors, like daily water consumption and, among others, evaporation at the less than handful of dams that feed Cape Town, is - at this very moment pegged at 21 April, this year; that's when the taps are predicted to run dry.

Cape Town will be moving to Level 6b water restrictions from 1 February, further curbing water usage by some 30-odd litres per person per day, with the city warning citizens Day Zero on 21 April was “now very likely”.

Today I also read a WWF advisory (issued yesterday - 17 January) on my city's water situation, which made for chilling reading:

"At present, Day Zero is calculated to be about three months away on 21 April. This day is calculated based on knowing how much water is in the big 6 dams that feed Cape Town and the Western Cape Water Supply System and knowing how much water is being used by the city’s residents, by agriculture and what is evaporating out of the dam. 

"Day Zero is a worst-case scenario but it has been inching closer since the City of Cape Town began predicting it. As of 15 January, the dams were 28% full and if we continue using water at the current rate we will run out of water on 21 April. 

"This calculation assumes that we can’t use the last 13.5% of water in the dams and that there are no new sources of water available by this date. Substantial new water sources are not likely to come on line before April, so the only thing that can really push out Day Zero is if YOU and I use less water and save water NOW!"

This was, also, the week I experimented with not showering for three days despite that it's the height of summer and that this (was a) winter rainfall/Mediterranean climatic zone; in other words if there is rain to come, it will only be in the winter.

Nevertheless, I continue listening to Bach's Preludes and Fugues. While Rome burns.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Made of negative ion

I took a clapped-out Southern Line train, with its ripped up seats, deeply scratched perspex windows and the monotonous graffiti found worldwide, to Kalkbay. I didn't - even for a single minute - allow the clackety-clack of the steel-on-steel to dull my senses during the 50-minute peak-hour train ride: I was alert to my possessions, to my pockets, to the zips and pouches of my backpack.

But , I only headed southwards after scrutinising the tide times, choosing, too, to get there before the December tourist hordes would begin (quite understandably) to clog and choke the southern peninsula, not noticing the fresh-minted menus now gleaming with inflated seasonal prices.

My destination was the Brass Bell restaurant; it's a jumble of an old-school place (starting out in 1939 as a city council 'tea-room'), almost indecipherable, that with eight different dining locations, protrudes haphazardly into the ocean. It's quiet there mid-week, especially in that magical, hazy  space between late afternoon and early evening now that the days linger for so long.

I checked the timing of the tides because I have a favourite seat at a favourite table where, at high tide, the surf has been known to furiously smash against - and batter - the windows. While you stare, blink, eat, jerk your head back, stare again. Because this was in the week of a blue moon, the tides were more passionate, more rage-filled than during a normal full moon.

I wanted to be as close to the ocean as possible, to gulp in deep its tangy salt air, it’s ozone and the negative ions, which Nature creates in heady abundance when water, sunlight, air and our Earth's inherent radiation meet. Negatively charged ions are good, very good. So are the places they're found in: they are most prevalent in natural places and particularly around moving water or after a thunderstorm. It's that taste in the air.

I've always been drawn to the ocean; it's where I charge my batteries and seek intimacy with my Creator. In Cape Town, there are two oceans: the Indian and Atlantic. Thinking of oceans, I'm currently reading British writer Amy Liptrot's autobiographical The Outrun, which is intricately entwined with the ocean; she grew up on the Scottish Orkney islands and returns to them, to both heal and to find herself, after she's left battered and broken by life in London.

She writes about the interconnectivity and borderlessness of the ocean:

"By swimming in the sea, I cross the normal boundaries. I'm no longer on land but part of the body of water making up all the oceans of the world, which moves, ebbing and flowing under and around me. Naked on the beach, I am a selkie slipped from its skin."

As for the Brass Bell, I know that the day must come, most likely soon, when a gleaming-eyed consortium of developers makes the right offer on the property. Then, before you know it, it'll be all open plan with lines smoothed out, all chrome and plushness, all expensive but perfect for the in-crowd. 

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Skyline of my content

Summer's here, and with its arrival please welcome The Wind.

Just like The Mountain is huge and begs disbelief, as is the ferocity and rage of the south-easter, hereafter known as The Wind.

When it batters and bashes like this I'm less inclined to venture outdoors, choosing to remain within the vortex of my flat, deeply cocooned. I have a dread of leaving. Even though as human beings we quickly adapt to conditions, on every level. Sometimes I only leave here to forage, for food and wine and anonymous conversationless company. Like to Jamaica Me Crazy, or to Cafe Ganesh in Obs. 

Even now, as I sit at my desk by the window, which is one large sliding door, it's pummelled and pushed and resented.

It's 15 days away from the summer solstice, on 22 December. This was the Woodstock skyline at 20h00 last night. Looks can be deceiving: it might have looked like a fabulous summer's evening, but it wasn't. The south-easter raged against Cape Town for the entire day and late into the early hours of this morning. 

At the end of a jumbled day internally, I craved people. People that I didn't know. I walked from work, in Lower Gardens, to my local, Jamaica Me Crazy in Roodebloem Street. The views of the harbour bathed in the golden early evening sunshine, and, in the far distance, of the Hottentot's Holland mountains - from the high-level road through University Estate lifted my spirits. 

I took the pic through the bathroom window; you'd be excused for thinking there wasn't a breath.

Chilled white wine, a chicken schnitzel, a second glass, a chocolate brownie and ice cream: I splashed out. 

I spoke to no-one but the waiters, but nevertheless enjoyed the smoky company of the gregarious crowd; JMC remains a special, cosy place to me because there's not a pretentious bone to the place, nor to the people who frequent it.

Despite the wind, which had not even slightly abated, I opted to walk home: I was right, there wasn't a soul on the moody, wind-swept streets; it was a pleasure to walk, it's downhill all the way home anyway. But, I won't do it again in the dark.