Thursday, April 30, 2009

Catching sunsets

Writer Donald Miller waxes lyrical in his book Blue Like Jazz:
Here is one of the coolest things I ever did: This past summer I made a point to catch sunsets. I would ride my motorcycle up Mount Tabor and sit on the steps of the reservoir to watch the sun put fire in the clouds that are always hanging over Portland. I never really wanted to make the trip; I would want to watch television or make a sandwich, but I made myself go. And once I got up there I always loved it. It always meant something to me to see beauty right there over my city.
My first sunset this year was the most spectacular. Forest fires in Washington State blew a light, nearly unnoticeable haze through Portland, and the clouds were just low enough to catch the full reflection of red and yellow. I thought to myself, This is something that happens all the time. From the ridge on Tabor where I planted myself, I could see the entire skyline, the home of more than a million people.On most nights there was no more than two or three people there with me. All that beauty happens right above the heads of more than a million people who never notice it.
Here is what I've started thinking: All the wonder of God happens right above our arithmetic and formula. The more I climb outside my pat answers, the more invigorating the the view, the more my heart enters into worship.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Just home to be welcomed by the very first chilli on the five bushes I planted months ago; I'm overjoyed as the passionate red is just what my winter garden needs.

It's a perfect afternoon: cobalt sky, no sound but that of lazy afternoon birdsong and a dog barking far away, confirmation via sms that my three day road trip is on this coming long weekend, anticipation of dinner with a great friend this evening at Stone Circle Bistro...and, most importantly, a sense of perfect contentness within (not only that everything is exactly as it should be, but also my utter acceptance of the status quo).

Ride 'em cowboy..

I've been in Belfast, the so-called tulip capital of the land (I'm yet to see one!), for most of the morning; of course it included a substantial breakfast at the ancient, atmospheric Belfast Hotel. Now, on my way back to Waterval Boven, I've stopped for my caffeine fix at the only Seattle right on the N4.

I'm salivating about an almost confirmed road trip this coming long weekend to Groot Marico with Louis. In my mind's eye I'm envisaging great bushveld sunsets, higher temperatures than here, mampoer, red wine and Herman Charles Bosman.

I was last in that area in 1983 - on a week-long trip to the Martha Glathaar (spelling? And watch how you pronounce that!) veld school. Although I was imediately SOLD I've not been back since. Now's my chance.

On a separate note, I promised myself that I'd step out of my comfort zone going forward from this year (it was a prayer answered for fire in my spirit), so I've decided I'm going to learn how to horse ride. Woop, woop, ride 'em cowboy! Ha-ha!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Memories: Warrior of Light

storm clouds gather.
frogs bubble & croak in the vlei below.
alone outside, all lights off except the fire of creation before me.
warming my bare shins & crossed knees.
trains shunt, shreek, tear in the yard below as this village settles down for weekend. and peace. and silence.
an odd dog's bark in the distant.
a beetle vibrates quickly past the fine hairs of my ear.
cricket. cricket. cricket. a backdrop of
this time alone, before a fire, a glass of wine, meat in lemon juice & black pepper inside the house to marinate: a deep & restful content.
i have only dreamed of this before.
and now it's in both hands.
I know the plans I have for you.
just for me to more firmly grasp the overflowing cup of faith.
to sleep in silence and fresh air.
no longer fear i hades, nor all the rings of despair.
this pilgrim lays his head.
warrior of light.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


As of today it's winter. I'm struggling to type this entry on my phone because my fingers are numb from cold. Yesterday I was wearing board shorts and a tank top, enjoying the baking sun. Today it's dark and moody, people are wearing jackets and scarves. I'm almost home and very glad to be back. I'm ready for the winter though... also tomorrow's elections, especially now that the oh-so-predictable electioneering bluster is over.

A sense of change courses through my veins...I'm thriving on a subtle change in vibration, waiting childishly expectant for what is to come, especially as I believe in and expect only fact the very best.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The torture of my discontent

INSECTS have been conscripted as weapons of war, tools of terrorism and instruments of torture for thousands of years. So should we be surprised by the news that the C.I.A. considered using these creatures to instill fear in Abu Zubaydah, a terrorist suspect? Yes, and here's why.

The earliest hypothesized uses of insects in human conflicts involved bees and wasps. During the Upper Paleolithic period, nests of stinging insects — evidently contained within baskets or pottery — were heaved into rocky caves or thorny stockades to drive an enemy into the open. Employing insects to destroy crops or transmit disease would not develop until modern times (unless we include Yahweh's assaults on Pharaoh in Exodus). However, entomological torture continued to play a role throughout history.

The ancient Persians developed a gruesome practice called scaphism, which involved force-feeding a person milk and honey, lashing him to a boat or hollow tree trunk, and then allowing flies to infest the victim's anus and increasingly gangrenous flesh. Siberian tribes simply tied a naked prisoner to a tree and allowed mosquitoes and other biting flies to deliver as many as 9,000 bites per minute — a rate sufficient to drain a person's blood by half in about two hours. And the stories of Apaches staking captives on anthills to ensure lingering and painful deaths are not merely the stuff of Hollywood westerns.

The epitome of insectan torture was developed by a 19th-century emir of Bukhara, in present-day Uzbekistan. He threw political enemies into a bug pit, a deep hole covered with an iron grille and stocked with sheep ticks and assassin bugs. The bite of the latter has been compared to being pierced with a hot needle, and the injected saliva digested the victims' tissues until, in the words of the emir's jailer, "masses of their flesh had been gnawed off their bones."

So what's surprising about the United States exploiting a prisoner's entomophobia? This appears to be the first case in which insects would have been used to inflict psychological terror. Solzhenitsyn described the use of bedbug-infested boxes in the Soviet gulags, but it seems that these were intended to cause physical suffering — and the Central Intelligence Agency operatives evidently planned to use a physically harmless insect. (A caterpillar was mentioned.)

After having seemingly exhausted the nefarious uses of insects as unwitting agents in human conflict, the United States managed to find a new way — 100,000 or so years after humans first inflicted pain on one another with bees and wasps — to exploit the natural world as a means of creating suffering.

There are many arguments against torture. One is practical: If we torture others, they might torture us. This applies to psychological torture, too.

What if a terrorist group announced that their operatives had introduced Rift Valley fever into the United States? This mosquito-borne disease would make West Nile virus look like a case of the sniffles. Given that virtually every corner of America has a native species of mosquito capable of transmitting the virus, Rift Valley fever could spread across the nation. Hundreds of thousands of people could be sickened, with thousands dying and many more falling blind. The livestock industry could lose billions of dollars as animals aborted their fetuses and succumbed to bloody diarrhea. Imagine the fear if every mosquito bite this summer could be the precursor of a disease that would cause your brain to become inflamed or your internal organs to hemorrhage?

The chances of this happening are slim. The terrorists might even be bluffing. But terrorism — and torture — can be psychological.

Jeffrey A. Lockwood, a professor of natural sciences and humanities at the University of Wyoming, is the author of "Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War."

From The Scary Caterpillar by Jeffrey A. Lockwood in The New York Times of 19 April 2009:

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Breakfast at Tiffanys

Not a chance! I'm having a late afternoon breakfast at Millys on the N4; my favourite meal of the day...or night. Even before my eggs, bacon and 'boerewors' were down the hatch so-to-speak, I'd watched the sun set into the honeycomb hills behind the trout dam. Despite being warm, it's been a wintery-looking bleached-out day.

There's a suit-and-tied chap sitting on the deck outside, he's definitely not from around here. I'm watching him visibly relax and sink down into his chair with the setting of the sun. I'm glad I'm not him going back to his world...that I'm right here wham bam in my world, and perfectly content to be here.

And now to Seattle for a quick cafe mocha before heading home. (I'm wondering if Reinhardt will be getting me there afterall? Ha-ha!)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I find myself heading unexpectedly home and on a road that I should not have been on this afternoon. It's beautiful and sadly moody. And I find myself troubled and ill at ease.. it's most likey me projecting my emotion on to the landscape.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


A writer's notes: I remember meeting Linda and Christo for dinner at Malaga. I had just got there, the only person there. I was waiting for an ice cold beer, but drinking in, deeply, the slightly muggy air of the Lowveld. Only 20km from my place, I'm in another world.
I spent most of the weekend sleeping, reading, reading in the bath. Last night I spent hours on the couch devouring the relatively light "Sunday Philosopher's Club", which journalist Patricia McCracken gave to me in 2006 after we bonded in Maputo.
Today I struggled to get into my work, which after all the incredible pressure of the last 6 weeks, seems boring and a challenge to get into. But I had to. Because money makes the world go round.
It's dusk. It's a magnificent African evening. The birds are heading home and there's a whiff of chlorine hanging on the air from the pool. I can hear the juggernauts on the main road 100m away, also the comforting hum of the pool motor. I've given thanks to God a dozen times for the fact that not only am I here, but that I live here.
I was then reading Lonely Planet's "Guide to Travel Writing", which I was given as a Christmas gift (also 2006) in London, but started reading only a few days later in Morocco. I read only a few pages before bursting into tears at the impossibility of everything I wanted to achieve as a writer. After a few pages I put the book away and stared into the abyss of another year in an international PR/advertising agency which, quite simply, I hated. I could never have imagined that I'd be picking up the book again 10 months later in my house in Waterval Boven (it was beyond my rather limited imagination), after an interview at Getaway magazine, after two articles for Leisure Wheels, after being out of a fulltime job for 4 months already then. And quite a few other unimagined changes.. on the intense friendship level, among others.
All was very well then though. And my faith was better, strengthened. I continue to live from minute to minute... I breathed in summer, I breathed in the Lowveld.. I also breathe in boundless, fearless opportunity. amen. (071029)

Oh the wine... the whine...

The wine urges me on, the bewitching wine, which sets even a wise man to singing and to laughing gently and rouses him up to dance and brings forth words which were better unspoken.

Homer, The Odyssey (800 - 600 B.C.)

Nun of this...

I'm remembering a tall cafe mocha-with-foam at Vida Cafe in Rosebank. The elephant grey of the low slung sky clashed brilliantly with the passionate red of Vida. So did the nun, sitting at the corner table, against the mauve of the passionate jacarandas lining the avenue just behind the cafe. I was happily on fire...... (071106)


Ever since a child I've had an aversion to going to the beach in a group, especially with a family. It's also where my aversion - to this day - of baggage - physical, emotional or otherwise. Carrying picnic stuff, beach furniture and umbrellas gets me running in the opposite direction. Although I've not yet completely suceeded, my aim is to travel as lightly, to live as streamlined as possible... to leave no treacks. But I still love the smell of suntan lotion, of icecream and already-chewed bubblegum melted on the tarmac of a scorching summer's day. And to spend the day in nothing but board shorts and barefoot.

Easter Sunday

Morning has broken...

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Faith, I believe, is to both unreservedly know and trust that God is in the detail... also to know that God is the detail. And then, in childlike wonder, to live accordingly. Great God thank You.


The sun sets early here on the eastern edge of Africa. It's my last walk of the day and although I experienced a strange pang of loneliness earlier, my afternoon budded and then blossomed as the layers of a person I've met began peeling away: I'm intrigued, curious and strangely-excitedly at ease..and in expectation.

Accidental nature

From Orhan Pamuk's "Istanbul: Memories and the City": In 'The Seven Lamps of Architecture', John Ruskin devotes much of the chapter entitled 'Memory' to the beauties of the picturesque, attributing the particular beauty of this sort of architecture, and (as opposed to that of carefully planned classical forms) to its accidental nature. So when he describes something as picturesque ('like a picture') he is describing an architectural landscape that has, over time, become beautiful in a way never forseen by its creators. For Ruskin, picturesque beauty rises out of details that emerge only after the byildings have been standing for hundreds of years, from the ivy, the herbs, the grassy meadows that surrounded it, from the rocks in the distance, the clouds in the sky and the choppy sea. So there is nothing picturesque about a new building, which demands to be seen on its own terms; it only becomes picturesque after history has endowed it with accidental beauty and granted us a fortuitous new perspective.' (p 229)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Moon-rise over the Indian Ocean

The camera on my mobile does this sunset and moon rise no justice. I stand here in awe and humility.

Hibberdene beach

It's a magnificent ending to a great day... I'm watching an almost full moon rise out of the Indian Ocean while having sundowners at the Jolly Roger. I'm waiting for a portion of their famous fish & chips.

It's a balmy late afternoon and autumn obviously hasn't shown her face here yet.

I'm expecting to be back down here in the second week of May for one of the world's great tourism & travel expos - INDABA 2009.

But right now I'm yearning to put my feet in the warm water and for a stroll along the beach at dusk.


I'm instantly aware of being amongst Zulu people - they look so different to the Swazi people back home. From their broad and open features, I perceive them to be welcoming and friendly. Thus far I've only been met by wide open and bright smiles.

Processing time

Road trips are always a time to process. I've just come across an email on my phone that I'd written just after Christmas in 2006: I was in London visiting my mother, also contemplating what then seemed a shaky career as a writer and freelance journalist. Especially because I just could not bear the thought of sticking out for much longer my well-paid but loathsome high-stress big-city media job. I had also just heard that my home in Johannesburg had been broken into:-

I already know this is going to be a rambling email, a smattering of
thoughts as i try to capture everything going on in my head! My apologies in advance.

I was on the South Bank on Saturday and had a stunning lunch at a funky restuarant called Giraffe. i'm still going to get to the Tate Modern again later, the most wonderfully overwhelming art gallery I've EVER been to in my life, in the world.

I'm having such a dilemma about continuing to live in SA: I'm finding that i'm so overwhelmed - most horribly - by MY HORROR at the constant pressure of the crime there... And it's only when I'm here do i realise how it affects me, how it invisibly exerts pressure on everything that I do and think.

I'm seriously considering all sorts of options. Because to see women walking and jogging - alone - through Hyde Park - in the dark -and to watch an entire nation come to a halt over the murder of five prostitutes emphasises to me that life has value here... not to even mention the art & culture, the magazines & newspapers, the literature this nation is soaked in.

Right now I confess to being completely overwhelmed, disorientated and as a result sometimes quite tearful... not sure if this is just a reaction to an awfully pressured year? Or maybe this is the beginning of my existential mid-life crisis - ha-ha?

And, of course, I cannot stomach the thought of going back to my life as it is.

Since I was last here coffee has definitely come to London! What a relief! My favourite Starbucks coffee shop is in the Hampstead's high steet. This morning I sat there reading & writing & taking photographs from my table (the only one in the window!) of the passing world... a whole memory card full again. That was before losing myself in the adjacent Waterstone's book shop.

I'm busy reading a John Betjeman biography, Erich Fromm's 'To have or to Be' (you can see where my head is! ...even weighing up becoming a vegeterian! ..I really want to have as little impact on this world, this planet as possible - the guilt ha-ha! - and I'm finding consumerism / materialism appalling!) and - finally! - Jack Kerouac's 'On the Road':

" the bar I told Dean, 'Hell, man, I know very well you didn't come to me only to want to become a writer, and after all what do i really know about it except you've got to stick to it with the energy of a benny addict." - p.9

And I love this's BRILLIANT!! And it makes me think of you... of us...:

"He told him of Roy Johnson, big Ed Dunkel, his boyhood buddies, his street buddies, his innumerable girls and sex-parties and pornographic pictures, his heroes, heroines, adventures. They rushed down the street together, digging everything in the early way they had, which later became so much sadder and perceptive and blank. But then they danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I've been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centrelight pop and everybody goes 'awww!'" - p.11


We're just outside Newcastle, at another Wimpy (this one's set in magnificent natural surroundings), heading towards Ladismith. Just outside Volksrust we crossed the historical Mpumalanga / KwaZulu-Natal border - with the old Convention Bridge where the Anglo Boer War armistice was signed, clearly in sight from the modern road - which forms an interesting triangle with another province that featured prominently in the two wars: the Free State. The next stretch of the road is ridden with battlefields and graveyards from the wars. I'm looking forward...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

African autumn

It's dusk: I see, high above, the waxing moon; the sun has sunk beneath the horizon, khaki - tinged pink with the very last light - is the predominant colour; I smell wood smoke on the air.

In this instance, as I type these words while driving, I know that I am an African.

I've just driven through Chrissiesmeer, it's the most beautiful I've ever seen it. There, to my right, is the Breyten turnoff, there's now 36 km to go to Ermelo.

Road trip

The Wimpy, Carolina: At last I'm on the road, what a pressured few weeks! I'm so relaxed and relieved to be in 'road trip' mode that I'm enjoying my maximum of 100km/h - just askance of the setting autumn sun - and the CD player belting out my fave trip tunes!

It's a moody afternoon, I couldn't have wished for better. There's a coldfront coming from the south, even though it's still early to suffer the worst extremes of the storms heading north from Antarctica...they tend to peter out this early in the year, but huh, just wait for the middle of winter!

Tomorrow this time I should be in Hibberdene on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast basking in the Indian Ocean and a subtropical clime. Can't wait. But I've a lot of work to do on the book (a great opportunity to type up my notes etc.)... this is not going to be a holiday in the traditional sense. Nevertheless I'm ecstatic.

I mustn't forget to record ocean sounds for Reinhardt (for him to listen to while next to his pool in Pretoria) and to get him an oh-so-traditional 2 ltr Fanta bottle full of seawater. Ha-ha!

Tonight I'm looking forward to being in the company of Engela, Wynand and Serra. I believe we're having home-made traditional vegetable soup for supper....

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Shadow of the sun

I'm reading veteran Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski's dazzling The Shadow of the Sun: My African Life. This is his preface:

I lived in Africa for several years. I first went there in 1957. Then, over the next forty years, I returned whenever the opportunity arose. I travelled extensively, avoiding official routes, palaces, important personages, and high-level politics. Instead, I opted to hitch rides on passing trucks, wander with nomads through the desert, be the guest of peasants of the tropical savannah. Their life is endless toil, a torment they endure with astonishing patience and good humour.

This is therefore not a book about Africa, but rather about some people from there - about encounters with them, and time spent together. The continent is too large to describe. It is a veritable ocean, a separate planet, a varied, immensely rich cosmos. Only with the greatest simplification, for the sake of convenience, can we say "Africa". In reality, except as a geographical apellation, Africa does not exist.


"...wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceful, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy." - James 3:17