Friday, June 21, 2019

Brisk


































Walked across the city after a day cooped in a convention centre.

Streets, of winter, relatively quiet.

I then walked up the pedestrian avenue, a broad knife's edge between the back of Parliament and the Company's Gardens; it felt bleak, ugly, unusually so.

There are always many homeless folks around because it's a free space, and understandably a space within which to find respite from a harsh city.

This late afternoon they were especially conspicuous to me because many were already covered like mummies with their blankets against the cold and night.

The nights must seem endless to them.

Was almost sorry I walked that way.

Then, I looked up and saw the Centre for the Book in the descending gloom. And took a photo.

Before walking on to the Kimberley Hotel bar for a glass of wine that became two.

Even as soon as I took the first sip I was sorry that I'd dropped in there, that I'd not gone on home. I suppose, though, that I just did not fancy being more alone than I already was.

Not that I sought company.

Friday, May 03, 2019

Lower Main Road, Woodstock





























Winter nudges closer. With it, the welcome change for me in the less harsh light. Also, are interesting and unusual cloud formations. This is as increasingly hostile cold fronts push up from Antarctica and ravage the Peninsula, before sweeping northwards and eastwards over the country, quite often bearing snow.

Even closer to home, it's also that time of the year when the odd, slender and sleekly-black millipedes escape my pot plants and haphazardly crisscross my floor going God alone knows where. At first, I put them back where I thought they belong. Then I realised that I know nothing about the behind-the-scenes machinations inspiring their actions and that, rather, I should stop meddling. Because I'm quite helpless, but nevertheless in awe, before the 'algorithms', formulas and miracles that wire our magnificent world.

It's not unlike how I've, also, let go of my fear and dread around the climate change spectre; it's really too late, I believe, to effect change, although I'll do my best, and trust somehow I do, that everything is exactly as it's meant to be. And I don't mean that fatalistically, but rather faithfully. (I strive with all of my might to not let my heart be troubled, worrying has never got me anywhere.)

From my writing table, as always, the handsome charcoal and white Edwardian facade above the District Six Meat Market on the corner of Lower Main road and Devon street draws my eye. As is often the case, on the electricity wires rigged between the old silver-painted street poles, a haphazard flock of dark-jacketed pigeons perch as if at a convention for serious-minded undertakers.

A seagull brilliant white, in contrast, with wings widespread soars in sheer gracefulness across my window view, quickly followed by another one, its partner?

Then an unexpected gap in the hum of the traffic, which is just as suddenly filled with a seagull shriek. Followed by the deep attention-grabbing clarion call of a minibus taxi as it scavenges the streets for passengers; these are the most informal bottom feeders of the city's transport system, often dangerous, always effectively uber regular.

I reign my gaze back inwards:

This is my sixth year in Woodstock. I'm happy here, much more so than I believe I would be elsewhere in much of Cape Town. Woodstock - harsh and rough, but real - is certainly not the bourgeois suburbia of the Southern Suburbs, nor of the Atlantic Seaboard. Well not yet at least... but make no mistake, they're working (hard) on it.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

I'm still alive









Sitting in a small pool of warm light on my mattress on the floor.

Surrounded by quiet and by books, my May Day reading, and a bottle of cheap red wine and a tumbler.

I bought the plonk last night at a garish yellow on the street bottle store in Rondebosch; a friend coerced me into going with her in the rain to her favourite and extremely cheap Italian restaurant

Because they don't have a licence you're encouraged to buy whatever booze you want with your meal at the dodgy store next door. Which we did. She was so proud, like a child, of how cheap the wine was, R39 for this bottle, which she strongly recommended, that I felt compelled to buy it.

And then to drink it, over a flickering candle, just her and I alone in the restaurant, as the rain came down on a busy, even turbulent Main Road: minibus taxis honking and plying their trade in the dark, last minute pre-public holiday shopping at Pick 'n Pay and the fast food joints, people scurrying frantically between shops and across the busy road as if it was Friday night, students darting mostly alone into the liquor store to get their cheap booze for wherever they were heading, or for whoever they would soon be romancing.

That was last night.

Now, from all of the seven or so kilometres away from the Mouille Point lighthouse I know myself to be, I hear it's mournful foghorn sounding right across the city bowl; Moaning Minnie she's known as; I'm strangely comforted and snuggle deeper into both myself and the futon.

Then suddenly - it's the grinding of steel-upon-steel that makes strangers to my home lookup wide-eyed ("what's that?") - another train screeches-and-grinds to a long-lasting halt on the iron tracks in front of my building. It's the dangerous no man's land that separates Woodstock from, firstly, the highway into town, and then the harbour. The train is either going to the city's main station, not far away, or 180 degrees in the opposite direction to Simonstown.

Curious about the fog I pad across the flat to my front window. It's silently, and wonderfully, not slowly, seeping across the city and into the suburb.

Down below, Argyle Street, directly in front of me, remains a brightly lit artery on the x-ray sheet before me. Brightly lit for now, and very pretty.

I wince from the pain in my back and chest; my ribs were cracked when I was mugged at Easter.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Panoptican





























Had dinner with a friend on the weekend. Caught myself staring into the fire a few times, and supper was a subdued affair, compared to our normal.

His father died unexpectedly last year. One of his coping mechanisms has been to throw all caution to the wind and to travel at short notice and with his now depleted savings.

After some wine, he told me that his hair was falling out and that he was extremely anxious about it. He had been looking particularly dishevelled of late, I hadn't realised exactly why. Stress?

After supper, he played at his piano and sang. That's when he came alive again as I know him.

My mug of tea is cooling, I'm not sure why I made it. It's a distraction. To fill the long spaces between me doing, accomplishing anything. Just as logging into the app every time, in case some stranger has messaged me. It's a distraction, from what I should be doing.

Not so much at the back of my mind, I dread that call that will alert me to my mother's or father's death. Of course, I may die before them but I don't wish that on them either. Statistically speaking, they will die before I do.

We are, all, essentially, alone. No matter what we try to fill our lives with, or choose as our distraction/s.

The south-easter is pummeling the city and thrusting a thick tablecloth of cloud over Table Mountain. With it, suddenly, is a smell of fire. It's tinderbox season now that it's late in the summer. The dryness combined with the ferocious wind fire on the mountain slopes is a real threat.

In the space that I find myself here at my desk at home, I also mourn the connection between me and once dear friends that have been unexplainably severed. As strong as the wind is, those memories and thoughts, their ghosts, are impervious to it and glue to me and my clammy skin on this insipid day.

What does, however, give me joy is the countless rusted, colourful tin roofs of Woodstock down below. It has become my hood, blissfully unpretentious. For now.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

A helpless world of idiots






















Last night the south-easter continued raging, torrenting thick and turbulent cloud over The Mountain and into the City Bowl.

So much so that it prevented the 16-deck 93‚000-ton cruise ship MSC Musica from docking from Thursday until early this Saturday morning - when the Cape Doctor halted as suddenly as it had started.

Cape Town Magazine explains to the uninitiated that the up to 160 km/h speeding Cape Doctor is the local name for the strong [read ferocious!] south-eastern wind – also known as South-Easter - that blows from False Bay and funnels through to Cape Town and Blouberg.
Then the sun finally set behind the basin between the edge of Table Mountain, on the corner where the cable car trundled 4 million visitors up and down its predominantly quartzitic sandstone 'wall' - laid down between 510 and 400 million years ago, it is the hardest, and the most erosion-resistant layer of the Cape Supergroup - and Lion's Head.

It was a glorious sunset, unreservedly impossible to capture by camera as usual, despite that, I never stop trying.

I'm reading, or rather I'm being swept along by, or, perhaps, devouring better describes it(?) Henry Miller's 1941 Greek travelogue 'The Colossus of Maroussi', which I found in the chilly, mostly neglected basement of the University of Cape Town's Main Library a week ago.

His description of a Greek a sunset is much better than both my attempt or, a thousand photographs:

"We sat on deck watching the sinking sun. It was one of those Biblical sunsets in which man is completely absent. Nature simply opens her bloody, insatiable maw and swallows everything in sight. Law, order, morality, justice, wisdom, any abstraction seems like a cruel joke perpetrated on a helpless world of idiots."

This morning the scene from my 'deck' is a starkly different one, so much so that I draw what flimsy excuses I have for curtains: calico drops.

Woodstock's subdued in ugly, bleak sunshine. The traffic on Lower Main is also subdued, sporadic. A dog barks half-heartedly. Bleak, barren, dishevelled. It's ingloriously rundown. The rusted corrugated iron roofs are like the deep red-soil gashes of some of my favourite places in the north of the country. There, on the other side of Pretoria, and in the deep bushveld of the Northern Province.