Thursday, June 18, 2009

Caffeine dusk

It's a different world I found myself in. North as opposed to far south; cold as opposed to warm; highveld coal fields and mines as opposed to genteel wine farms and ocean views; and folk so different I find it a challenge to describe them, but no criticism intended. Now, with my expanded horizons, it's decision time. All I know is that I'm a citizen of the world.

Harem's world

It was coffee on, and a view of a magnificent, sun-baked suburban park from the first floor of my friend, artist Harem's, new home this morning. Although his new home is many, many miles away from the forest behind Kaapsehoop, it has the same atmosphere; again he's achieved an incredible balance between light, space and nature. I left there energised.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Cape Quarter

This is truly the Cape of Influences (and extraordinary wines). I've met my friend Sudeshan Reddy (UN Information Officer for the region) in the old Malay Quarter of the city. There's so much to offer in this most cosmopolitain - I'd dare say - of the entire souhern Africa, definitely South Africa (forget it Joburg, you just don't have the class - try as you might too hard) region. The rich and colourful strands of this incredible tapestery are extraordinary enough to do the head in of any thinking, feeling (and wine drinking) human in.

What on Earth?

I'm in front of Kirstenbosch's Silver Tree Restaurant's magnificent log fire. In my humble opinion (well it's my blog after all, ha-ha) Kirstenbosh is the most magnificent botanical gardens in the whole world; well in terms of the sheer, unimagined and magnificent drama of Table Mountain anyway!

So what am I doing here this time of the night? As part of the Cape Town Book Fair Briza Publications ( has launched some new titles. These include the revided edition of 'Medicinal Plants of South Africa' and 'Mind-sltering & Poisonous Plants of the World' among others.

However the highlight of the evening is getting my ungrubby (respect!) hands on a publishing masterpiece: 'Earth - The Comprehensive World Atlas' (stand B6 at the Book Fair). It's purported to be the most accurate and detailed atlas of our world today: a 20-year old dream, two years in production, 20kg heavy and 580 pages, it's a hand-bound collector's item...and the most expensive book at the fair: R42 000 a copy!

Breakfast at Knead

Muizenburg: A stunning sunny morning filled with the aroma of fresh baking bread, also surrounded by surfers and chilled Cape folk unhurried, unstressed. You'd never ever think it was Monday morning in the rest of the world. Looking at the Indian ocean on this crystal clear day it really feels as if I could see all the way to Antarctica if I tried hard enough.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Peninsular road trip

Kommetjie: I've got a chilled and dark half pint of Mitchell's 90 Shilling draught in my hand, served to me by the friendliest Malawian barman (going by the unexpected name of Franco). Back to my hand - it's reeking of the long 'prime cut' russian sausage and chilli 'slap' chips - marinated in sea salt and black vinegar - I got at the typical old days corner cafe 'Kommetjie Supermarket' next door, before devouring it all on a low wall across the road.

After leaving Simonstown at dusk I opted to take the road less travelled via Cape Point, then Scarborough. Windswept and enticingly moody in the soon inky darkness, this was a landscape I'd last traversed in 1983 as a spotty, hormoned teenager angry (but not sure why) at the world.

Sitting indoors next to a fire, and not far from a dodgy gambling area reeking of stale alcohol and old cigarettes, I'm contemplating life. And getting slightly numbed by the draught. It's an opportunity to again make choice: am I going to sow nettles, or am I going to sow corn?

(The photos are of Simonstown.)

A glimpse of Simonstown

The Sweetest Thing

Simonstown: It's a warmish Sunday afternoon in the middle of a Cape winter and I'm waiting for a friend at an old style patisserie (you don't get them anymore!) just before Jubliee Square; enjoying the sun beams streaming through the antique wooden frame shop windows, also the aroma of good coffee.

The best thing that ever happened to this country was what I call the 'Italian influence' - those immigrants to this country, many of them with prisoner of war origins, refused to drink what was acceptable as coffee here, hence the invasion of the six cylinder cappuccino machines. Life has never been the same again.

This is a time of coffee and contemplation for me. I'm excited at the possibilities open to me, even if it's not even yet clear exactly what they are. I just know that there are open doorways around me just begging to be entered. The only conditions I'm able to percieve right now are that I'm not to look back (my past is redeemed), also that I should spend some time discerning which of the many open doorways are the most right to enter; second best right now is just not good enough.

I'm sitting under a chandelier.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Penguin lover

My experience of the book fair has thus far been a series of unplanned coffee dates with people I love or at least care for deeply. And they are all people who live a passionate love affair of books. Mine has been a life centred - not meant in a pretentious or egotistical way at all - in books and words, and has always been so. They have been a means of both exploring and interpreting the world, especially the parts I've not been able to physical travel to. More often than not my physical travels have followed hot on the heels of the journeys I've taken in books and words... and I'm looking forward to many more 'cos I'm still so young!

Cape Town Book Fair

Aah, I've got my weather at last - it's an almost typical, stormy Cape Town winter's morning...I wouldn't want it any other way. I've just had my most value for money meal (breakfast) since getting here, and a magnificent cappuccino at Coffee-on-the-Square in the Convention Centre. I'm here for the book fair, but had to fill the hole in my stomach first. Happy Saturday morning.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

iKapa dusk

It's a magnificent Cape Town winter's evening; for once I'm over-dressed and almost suffering in unexpected humidity. I'm meeting a friend at the Waterfront for coffee, in the meantime I'm in awe at being in an environment so, so completely different to the one I've currently chosen to live in. Besides anything else, it's a beautiful, friendly city that I feel completely at home in.

Rain in winter!

Where I come from, on the highveld, it's most unusual for it to rain in winter, never mind for it to be overcast; winters days here are characterised by continual blue skies, chilly mornings and evenings, a warmish midday. Since when I awoke on Monday, up until now, it has been icy cold, thickly and darkly overcast; also since last night rain. Lots of (welcome) rain. I'm definitely not complaining, this is my favourite weather.

All-in-all it has been an extraordinary week - between the weekend and now, other than the weather, my world has dramatically changed and done an about turn. I'm grateful to have stuck to my guns about my trip to Cape Town (I'm waiting to board my flight right now): I see this as an opportunity (in one of my most favourite cities) to get some perspective, to look in the mirror, even into the abyss if need be, also to do some soul searching and to consider what direction to be led in for the next chapter. It is almost exactly two years since I moved into my house in Waterval Boven after a particularly challenging and growing two years prior to that. I admit to being childishly and excitedly expectant about the next two years...God knows! Especially as 2009 is about things coming to fruition, cycles finishing. Whatever the future holds, I'm believe I'm completely free and unhindered to head in whatever direction might be expected of me.

In the meantime I'm looking rather forward to spending time at Cape Town's Boof Fair, starting on Saturday. I'm also looking forward to rain gushing in the gutters, also to one of my most favourite sounds - the shrieking of seagulls. And some great views while I sip my coffee fixes at some of my favourite caffeine joints in the city.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Field mouse

The mountain behind the town and my house burned today. At dusk I walked up as far as I could. I got to the cellphone antenna before I felt it was too dark to continue. Tree trunks were still smouldering and smoking. It felt like I was in alien territory, surrounded by a matrix of seeming senseless coal red guides and batons. The only life I could discern was that of scurrying field mice and just once I heard the distinctive call of a nightjar. I felt as ancient, yet as satisfied, as the mountain.

Imemeza. That’s the name of the mountain that cradles both Waterval Boven and Emgwenya Township, and can already be seen from the Machado Toll Plaza, if you know what to look for. Imemeza is the siSwati word meaning "place of shouting", which seems an apt name. Petit and shy Sis Magagula, who’s lived in Emgwenya and beneath the mountain all her life, told me softly in siSwati that the old folk say the name refers to the awe-inspiring thunder that ricochets off the mountain during the awesome summer storms: “It causes everyone beneath the mountain to tremble in their beds, wondering if this day is their last.”

The crummy camera attached to my phone does no justice to the magnificent mountain. It's actually inspiring. Well, it will be again in the spring.