Monday, December 27, 2010

Jane Austen's house in Chawton, Hampshire

Why would I rather be in my beloved Karoo? Because I'm surprised at how
nonchalant I am to be here... too many people, too much buying &
materialism, also too much noise... and too much happening....
I'm also walking around seeing glimpses of the ghosts of me, of the me that
used to be. And I stare in disbelief. That was me??!!
It has taken this trip, a bookend to a previous one four years ago, for me
to see how God has changed me... the one drop at a time that melts the
glacier. It feels like I have been taken out of my skin... that my needs are
much less... that there are no specific categories I, any longer, belong
within. I'm a lot freer.
I'm on the way to my sister. My mother's coming back tonight, but we are
staying there for a day or two. She stays in Hampshire, in the south of
England. I'm going get her to take me to Jane Austen's house, also to
Winchester cathedral and to Guildford.
The view right now from the car could be from any of the winter scenes in
Narnia: thick snow on the ground and on the black, starkly bare trees all
smudged by fog.
As a writer in the making, I'm still searching for my voice... and place.

Thank you

Beena thanks so much for your comment on 25 December; and I loved the cummings poem:


“Your post about Daphne reminds me of this poem ....if you like my poems let them by e. e. cummings...

"if you like my poems let them
walk in the evening, a little behind you

then people will say
"along this road i saw a princess pass on her way to meet her lover (it was
toward nightfall) with tall and ignorant servants." 

Rebecca is such a beautiful book ~~ hauntingly beautiful.

Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones! :)




Saturday, December 25, 2010


My mother's bookshelf is filled with books by and about Daphne du Maurier. My entire life she has also spoken of the author's novel 'Rebecca', one of the most popular books of the last century, and her favourite book of all time. My mother has also often visited Fowey on the Cornish coast, where Daphne du Maurier lived, at Ferryside, and wrote.
Tonight I'm lying in bed spellbound, reading Margaret Forster's biography of du Maurier. Cornwall has not been closer in four years.
Earlier this evening, with the snow turned to ice in the road outside the house, and half-speaking to herself, my mother said that she hated starting books.
Have a blessed and peace-filled Christmas. I am not an atheist....
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Thursday, December 23, 2010

St. Albans, Hertfordshire

This morning I sat in a leather armchair at a large hearth in Waterend Barn. I was half watching the flames, half contemplating my life in the pages of my red Moleskine notebook.
It was a friend request on Facebook from someone I'd last seen in 19997, and before that in 1989, that triggered an emotional roller coaster through the last two decades... a ride that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Muffled, and cosy, and warm

On the train into Copenhagen with my nose pushed up against the window, staring at the homes, the trains, the frozen lakes and ponds, the quartz crystals dangling from the stark, bare winter skeleton trees and reed roofs of old-style houses. All seems muffled and warm and cosy, me too. Even the old man across from me who is wearing a stalactite beard and fine, faded parchment skin on his regal skull, which I can see so clearly, as if his skeleton was dressed up for a fancy dress. Tell me about you life, I want to ask as I count the left over down feathers on his pate. I believe he is a gentle man who has led a gentle life. Of course I might be wrong...

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Minus eleven

Annise Nord, Denmark. ?For an African minus 11 centigrade is VERY cold. That was the temperature this morning when I woke up. Nevertheless it was a beautiful morning reminiscent of the Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tales I grew up with.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Open fire with pastry

Louisiana Cafe, Helsingnor. Denmark is pastry kingdom. I'm sitting close to a log fire in a Danish designed fireplace - beautiful with its clean lines - and I'm so flooding over with words that I have nothing to say, nor write. First a Christmas beer, then a coffee and cinnamon stick, as well as a chocolate muffin.
My face is squashed up against the double glazing looking out, beyond its confusing reflections, to sea and leaving nose-tip prints on the glass.
Danish laughter other side the hearth, American accents at the table to my right.
The ocean is moody, hardly, darkly visible. Sweden cannot even be seen.
As I wrote, I have nothing to say, nor write.
The temperature is hovering on zero, snow has fallen the whole day. Welcome to Denmark.
Tonight to read, by the fire, in the village we're staying in. Silence and quiet and calm and love. It was a tough year.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Stillezone Shhhh"

Copenhagen. On a train out of the city to Hillerod, where I will be staying for the next three nights.
It's freezing cold, undoubtedly below zero, and while there is snow on the ground, its a wonderfully sunny day.
To my left is a lake....well, a lake-sized ice skating rink; too beautiful in the midday sunshine, and in contrast to the winter trees and cobalt sky.
"Stillezone Shhhh" - my ultimate is being able to choose to sit in a smallish section of the carriage dedicated to quiet. No talking. No phones. No ring tones, nor music. And not to mention the free on-board wifi. Big brownie points - I'm impressed.
My first excitement was Copenhagen Airport. Stylish, spacious, functional, beautiful...and also dead quiet. Oh yeah, and filled with beautiful Danes.
I could live here...!

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Thursday, December 09, 2010

Good coffee

That was the most comfortable Turkish bed. I slept deeply and intensely. Probably due to the pressure and stress of one of my most challenging years ever holding me down and whispering "evaporate tonight" in my right ear.
Right now I'm enjoying one of my most favourite travel experiences - sitting up against a wall to floor window in a restaurant on the very edge of a cobbled street in a foreign city, drinking good coffee, listening to music that I've never heard before, making notes and sorting through yesterday's photos.
Cup four. I peel open the white paper around the crystal sugar cube...  

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Friendly but subdued

My experience of the Turks thus far has been that they are a friendly, helpful and polite people. But they have also struck me as a nation subdued. Perhaps it's because they must constantly be aware of the fact that they were once a truly great nation... there is no escaping that fact as one trawls the streets of this city. The winding streets ooze an abundant and proud ancient history at every turn. Perhaps it's the despair of knowing what this nation was once capable of, but that they have no idea how to ever attain it again... especially in a vastly changed and modern world?

Shiny, happy Bosphorus

Despite naively expecting the worst weather as I flew into Istanbul at 05h50 this morning, it has been a wonderfully sunny and lukewarm winter?s day. One that's been an amazing introduction to this city that straddles both Europe and Asia.
My first view of the Bosphorus River as I got off the tram at Sirkeci was a breathtaking treat. Especially the views (pictured here) across the river and to the north of the Golden Horn to Beyoglu and its prominent Galata Tower.
It has been a quiet, calm day spent on foot with big eyes.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Challenges and mystery

Embarking on a journey with a handset that has a stuffed camera and, after only a year, seems to be on its last legs. How on earth will I blog without a camera?
Anyway, its now dark at Oliver Tambo International and we're about to board the Airbus.
This is the last time for a month that I'll be wearing just a t-shirt.
Tomorrow I'm looking forward to Turkish coffee... also to facial structures, hair and bodies derived from moulds I've not previously set my eyes upon. And deliciously exotic ones, relatively speaking of course, at that.
Now seated on the plane, even the music playing in the backgrounds hints at the mystery and history that I imagine will imbibe the conjunction of the two continents in Istanbul.

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E.T phone home


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First step...

So starts my journey northwards.... Sitting on the Gautrain out of Johannesburg to the airport reading on the New York Times website that Saint Julian of Wikki has been denied bail in London, and will remain in custody until 14 December.
It's a magnificent summer's afternoon, undoubtedly my last until 2 January.
My Air Turkey flight leaves at 20h30and I'll be in Istanbul until Friday. Then further north and more cold and snow after that....

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Tuesday, November 09, 2010


Today was a difficult day. Although I ask myself why so, I cannot even remotely come up with an answer. After a great, long night's sleep I found it challenging to get up, to generate any excitement whatsoever about the day. And what a beautiful day it started out as....
I so missed taking the initiative that comes with the dawn, and from then on consistently lost the battle of my mind.
Most of today was spent lying reading the captivating 'Around Africa on my Bicycle', sleeping, or moping next to two ecstatic (not that it was obvious) cats. Not on, it is Tuesday not Sunday after all.
I'm on a long flight northwards at the end of the first week of December, which means I've got a lot to do before then. I don't feel that, right now, I'm able to afford days like today. But in the same breath, somehow everything always works out.
While today I'm not 100% sure I'm exactly where I should be right now, there's no doubt whatsoever in my mind that I have been utterly true to myself and to my life journey...and if I'm not yet where I should be, I'm at least definitely on the right path. And that I have a lot less obstacles in my way of getting there than most.
It's raining.

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Sunday, November 07, 2010

Late night storm

Thunder reverberating off Imemeza (Siswati for 'place of shouting'), the mountain behind the house, and fresh air from the storm gusting in through the open windows as I turn off the light.
I'm reading two travel books concurrently; I started Riaan Manser's 'Around Africa on my bicycle' yesterday then, tonight, remembered that I had crazy Irish woman and cyclist, Dervla Murphy's 'South from the Limpopo', unread on my bookshelf.
I'm loving them....

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Saturday, November 06, 2010

Beautiful day

It's a beautiful day. I'm well rested after lingering in bed between in the half light space between dozing off and reading until about 13h00. Then a slow, cool shower spent wondering what to do next.
Dressed, relaxed and rested I'm ambling slowly down the Schoemanskloof road towards, probably, Nelspruit.
It's a scorcher of a day, but fresh and bright after last night's rain.
I'm listening to Richard Moambo's sounds of Africa show on SAfm - music from all over the continent. It's good.
I'll take off at any road that catches my fancy... yes, fancy-free I am.

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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Speaking to Wikileaks' Julian Assange

Talking live on Skype - at the Power Reporting conference in Johannesburg - to Wikileaks' founder Julian Assange about the protection of sources, as well as about the Iraq war 'leaks'.

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CAR at Power reporting

I've just walked into my second computer assisted reporting session, which is all about using Excel for investigative journalism...and it's blowing my mind.
I had absolutely no idea whatsoever of the possibilities inherent in mining data for stories.

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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

I've got a thing for storms

It's the moodiness that draws me, that inspires me. These images were taken after the conference yesterday, as I was leaving the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

Hail storm

These are just some of the images I managed to capture of the storm that engulfed me during my journey between Mpumalanga and Johannesburg on Sunday. It was exhilarating, and summer was instantly transformed into winter.

Monday, November 01, 2010

AIJC power reporting conference - Joshua Prager

Some notes:
The Wall Street Journal's Joshua Prager has been blowing our minds for the last hour and half. He's spent the time focusing on four of his stories in his 'writer as sleuth: bringing narrative to investigative journalism' slot.
He's adamant that it's good for people to know the truth. He says the best way to do it is to just tell a story: "And subtlety works...tell it simply.
And remember that understatement always rather than overstatement; don't hit people over the head!"
He also emphasised that authentication is crucial: "I'm obsessive about checking the details! You have to get the facts straight."
"I'm also a big believer in chronology. And define one character for each component of the story, so that they can bring it to life."
Joshua highlighted that when he writes the narrative he thinks about the five senses over and over: "Description! Describe things. Describe what you witnessed."
He said that what guides him is honesty and decency; that's why he believes people should always be given a chance to respond before publication.
While he doesn't want to hurt anyone, he also is adamant to not allow the possible outcry, reaction to the end story hold him back from writing it. "It's good for people to know the truth."
The man, who walks with a cane as the result of a bus accident when he was younger, has got a brilliant, sharp sense of humour. His talk this morning was inspiring and immediately put my future into perspective.

Coffee before AIJC

Thoughts getting snarled in unbearable traffic knots inspired me straight out of bed at 5h30. For that I was rewarded by a magnificent summer's that is 'deteriorating' into moodiness and a cold front chill from Mozambique in the west.
Walking past Wits university's senate house all I could dream of was a great cup of coffee. Well, I'm satisfied with hot and strong for now...
Registration for the African investigative journalism conference starts at 08h30n but between then and now I've got a sh*tload of work to get done.
Oh yeah, happy Monday.

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Sunday, October 31, 2010


I've come to Johannesburg to partake in the African investigative journalism conference at Wits university for the next three days. It will be the first one I'm attending. Now that last week is behind me I'm looking forward to it.
It took me well over four hours to get here this afternoon; my first delay was caused by a devastating hail storm that saw me drive off the road and under tree canopies for protection.
The storm took out the power to pumps at the petrol station I desperately needed to stop at for fuel, so I thought I'd have coffee there.
Water from the ferocious downpour was flooding the roadside restaurant, so I promptly ordered a cappuccino and breakfast, which arrived in record time.
Wind buffeted the car the remainder of the stormy route to the big smoke, with it at least three dust storms for company.
But all's well that ends well - I type falling into bed, a sumptuous curry & rice later, washed down by a glass of dry white wine.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Utterly bushed

After the adrenalin rush of the last few days, I'm sitting bushed over a cappuccino, struggling to keep my eyes open. The relief is seeping into my muscles, tendons and between my joints.
But now is not a time to relax, otherwise I'll lose my advantage.
Coffee anyone? I'll get it if you can keep my eyelids parted....

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