Sunday, November 22, 2015

Playground ants and cracks

A peaceful Sunday. I've much marking to do. At five I'm going to Nic and Mike for dinner. With wine. In their construction site of a house; they've been renovating for as long as I've wonderfully known them.

No music playing, my flat is silent. I'm alone with myself and the low-level shred and tear of the wind as it grows in forcefulness; judging by the hefty table cloth being thrown over Table Mountain it's most likely to develop into a full-force south-easter before long. I care not.

A distant siren, a not so distant train hurtling past in a low shriek-and-swoosh of sound. Many distant voices on the street; African voices in languages I don't recognise, Central African voices I'm sure. Also taxi hooters and, specifically, horns. Traffic sounds too. But distant and welcome. I'm alone but not lonely in a multicultural community that is, mostly, at rest today.

There're four vehicles in various stages of dilapidation with their hoods up and in a shaky line on the pavement alongside but not part of a (closed on Sunday) second-hand car dealership. They, and a group of smiling, talkative men are overseen by a socialising mechanic: a gleaming ebony skin and bulging biceps, baggy oil-smeared grey pants and a faded blue but sleeveless T-shirt.

This regular gathering takes place just off Lower Main. It's in direct line of sight of my reading and mountain-viewing chair at my floor to ceiling window. It's a vast flatscreen TV on my immediate world that, as it's central structure (of my life too) has the ever-changing flat-topped granite seventh natural wonder of the world. This phase of my life, in stark contrast to that which lies before it, is - relatively speaking of course - epitomised by solidity.

There's also clumps of sedate and well-dressed family members, all black, heading off to the ample churches in the mix-match of buildings along both Main and Lower Main streets that, like two fat and juicy veins, run parallel through Woodstock and Salt River, never joining. Bibled and with gleaming shoes they stroll confidently pious towards worldly destinations but with their eyes set on  heaven, wherever the hell that might be.

I feel like a cool and disinterested god watching erratic ants on a playground-sized slab of cracked cement.

As we've all had driven home the last few months, weeks, nothing's solid; heaven's in the now. Right now. Neither past nor future counts for anything.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Teary-eyed and toxic

Rain-spattered glass as I spend my day of rest between reading in bed, now writing in the bath. Both steeped in strong Arabica coffee and dunked with rusks, interspersed with buttered toast, two soft-boiled eggs.

Was at a wedding yesterday, Caledon, the service held in a forest. Cool. Very. Except it was a forest of toxic black wattle, exotic extraordinaire, pollinating us with mustard flowers plops instead of rain, although was threatening. As is everything else. Threatening.

A shallow and pure-white wedding completely out of touch with the reality of living in this touchstone country with its raw and bleeding nerve ends. No thought to inequality and #feesmustfall and hunger-bloated bellies as they married in the toxic forest isolated from reality: superficial and skin deep, sermon jokes about one or two holiday homes (what is your family's is now my family's), a Landrover in the drive, brats and lives most likely to re-perpetuate unsustaining white privilege. But I've no doubt they're in love, blessed them nonetheless. 

Then, just before the cloying reception, we snuck away for dinner in Stellenbosch. Me to make notes about my conflicting self as the other and outsider-observer, who'll most likely end up, happily though, living and thirsting on a desert's knife edge far from the broiling sea of my failed species.

Neither cynical nor without hope I'm currently sloughing another life-skin as I painfully grow into a new life role that I'm loathe as yet to percolate into public words, here.

On the note of aloneness, not loneliness, I'd be happy to walk next to someone for the next while, even though I may be blind with teary-eyedness.

Hope is a thing with feathers.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Do you mind spit on your filter?

I scuttle home from the bus stop clutching my freshly printed  copy of 'What Fanon said', past the scantily dressed, spider-legged prostitutes on lower main. Greeting them in my head I cluck-cluck-mother them into warmer clothing. And home. Please, it's cold. Also in my head. And shower them in prayers.
The gentrification trees recently planted, only, in front of the Old Biscuit Mill and it's Saturday neighbourhood goods market, where the neighbours actually aren't welcome, are in full bright leaf. Even in the dark. 
I kick at the litter and stones and think that just the other day these feet were shoeing their way though Oxford, Hampstead Heath, Gdansk. Not that I'm discontent.
In the heart of the city of spires I met a guy under the bridge of sighs, my first words to him were 'how fucking romantic'. His name was Turner. Although a student, he wasn't from there. Los Angeles. We shared some Rothmans, I coughed but enjoyed. I liked his glasses and fingered his, long, hair.
Autumn in the north ('the trees are in their autumn beauty, the woodland paths are dry'), spring here in the south. I'm again straddled between two worlds.
Now, I sit in silence with the city and mountain in darkness at my back contemplating tomorrow's public holiday and a chapter's corrections to complete. On deadline. Tight. 
My heart's transplanted itself elsewhere... change is coming, fast. Straddled between two worlds, leaning keenly, strongly northwards.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

To the lighthouse

Slangkop lighthouse is, maybe, 1000m away down a pebble and wild flower strewn coastal path just below a tumultuous and elephant grey winter's sky. At last the winter rains are slashing Cape Town and the Peninsula. Not for nothing is it known as the Cape of storms.
My joie de vivre, my creativity and inspiration, my desire to live even more intensely, and other passions, surge in this weather, which should - plus minus - hold until late November. Not for nothing is it also known as the Cape of good hope.
Kommetjie. The Lighthouse pub and grill. My notebook open on the table. Heading from here, in the mist and rain, to Cape Point, Simonstown, then to Kalk Bay for dinner with good wine from the Cape's finest vineyards.
Life's too short, I'll sleep when I'm dead, I heard him mutter.
Castle Milk Stout, which is apparently excellent for lactating women. A meal on its own: puts to shame the grilled squid heads and calamari strips, the local mussels. And the company of my sister.
Now on to Scarborough.
I salute Virginia Wolf. And,  for the hell of it, James Joyce.
And, for that matter, the portrait of a young man as an artist.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Winter night's content

Arrived early for a book launch (Memory Against Forgetting), of a collection of photographs ("a photographic journey through both sides of South Africa’s history"), at The District Six Museum in Buitenkant street.

Photographer Ranjith Kally joined Jim Bailey's
iconic Drum Magazine in 1956
I'm the second person to arrive, the photographer (Ranjith Kally), in his nineties, sits quietly in the front row with an intriguing copper walking stick. He's immaculately dressed and his solid black shoes are polished.

It's the first time, surprisingly, that I've been here; I savour the smell of old wood and old building and I'm grateful to be visiting and ecstatic to have made the effort to leave the flat despite the moodiness and early arrival of the winter night.

I lift my glass of Leopard's Leap Sauvignon Blanc to the artist, also to my creative, artistic city that for centuries was - mostly - known as the tavern of the seas. I also raise it to the ghosts fluttering amongst us... the marvelous space is filling up.

The shame; lest we South Africans ever forget! This old sign is on a wall at the
District Six Museum: "By Order Provincial Secretary".
The book's apt title was inspired by Czech writer, Milan Kundera, who wrote in his The Book of Laughter and Forgetting that “the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting”.