Tuesday, December 31, 2013

To the Edge of both the End and of the Beginning

The sun is shining today; it's the first full day of sun, not the thickly moistured low slung grey cloud of the past seven days, since I arrived in Johannesburg last Monday. Not that I'm complaining.

It's the last afternoon 2013.

I'm thankfully all alone at my dad's home; I've had an extremely intense year without much alone time (probably the least in the last eight years) so I'm very grateful to be ending and starting these two years alone, and with a clear head.

If 2012 was the year that I "underwent that inner reconstruction that most of us have to do at least once in a life" (Doris Lessing( - it was also the year that I believe was my life's halfway mark - then 2013 was the year of putting down the foundations for the second half.

I am content and at peace and my current world is one that, despite my excellent imagination, I could not have even remotely seen into life last year this time: How blessed am I!

I read this amazing piece in the first volume of Lessing's autobiography Under My Skin in the bath yesterday; it refers to her mother:

"Now I understand why she went to bed. In that year she underwent that inner reconstruction that most of us have to do at least once in a life. You relinquish what you believed you must have to live at all. Her bed was put into the front room, because of the windows and the view to the hills, under the stern gaze of her father, John William, and his cold dutiful wife.

"All around her were the signs and symbols of the respectable life she had believed was her right, her future, silver tea trays, English watercolours, Persian rugs, the classics in their red leather editions, the Liberty curtains. But she was living in what amounted to a mud hut, and all she could see from her high bed was the African bush, the farm 'compound' on its subsidiary hill."

That was me, at the end of my first life half, in Waterval Boven, Mpumalanga, in 2012.

The photos I took in Hogsback on 18 December after spending some crucial time recuperating from the car accident.

If I could choose, I would have preferred to end 2013 walking the 1,4 km long Labyrinth at The Edge (second photo) in Hogsback at sunset. I would have then started the new year by enjoying the sunrise of 1st January literally at The Edge (the first photo) while praying for the following:

1. Wisdom and understanding,
2. Peace, and for
3. Enough.

This coming year, 2014, I seek to:

1. Embrace simplicity,
2. Eat well, and
3. Travel far.

Happy New Year to all of you. And thank you.

Monday, December 30, 2013

City of gold

Joburg sunset: An unusually quiet and peaceful city emptied of the summer holidays folk who've headed to the two oceans; it's my favourite time to be here, when my Cape Town is packed to capacity beneath a relentless summer sun.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Filters, but not smoke and mirrors

Introspection and self-editing (I was curious what I'd look like when older) at my most favourite (yes I do mean Most Favourite) coffee shop in Johannesburg.

Like me it's gone through a renovation, and a revamping; it's raining outside and has been the entire day, from before I woke up.

Reading Doris Lessing's Under My Skin.

Dear Doris

How better to celebrate a great writer's life than to read her autobiography - over coffee and chocolate cake in my favourite coffee shop - on a rainy Sunday, afternoon.

Doris Lessing died on 17 November this year. In celebration of her life I took the first book of her autobiography, Under My Skin, out from Cape Town Library earlier in December; it has accompanied me - in and out of beds and foam baths - on my, so far, 2500 km journey.

Respect. And awe.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Soft-boiled road trip eggs

Hogsback: Sherry and soft-boiled road trip eggs at the end of a long day's travel.

This is where, right here at this table, I could sit down and write what I am on this good earth to write; unhindered and in silence, but for the midsummer birdsong outside, rain dripping-dropping from the eves and trees, also the crackling and pungent hearth behind me.

In the early 90s as a long-haired journalism student at Rhodes University I travelled here often - on my off-road Yamaha XT-250, with just a two man tent and sleeping bag strapped to the rusted carrier, a backpack on my back - seeking peace and solace from the bustling and intense Grahamstown.

I've passed through Hogsback, which is well off the beaten track, often since then, always promising to return when I have more time on my hands. That time never comes in life, unless you're determined to carve it out of your heavily scheduled existence.

Perhaps it was my head-on collision on the N2 just outside of Plettenburg on Saturday evening - with what looks like to have been an alleged drunken driver crossing into my lane - that has again reinforced my determination to live fully, passionately in the moment.

Hence us resting up in this peaceful, secretive mountain village in the forest on the Amatola mountains in my favourite of South African provinces: the Eastern Cape.

Road trip: Hamba kahle Tata Madiba

This is the magnificent view, at dusk, from Dolphin's Point over the seaside town of Wilderness in the Western Cape province this past Saturday.

We left Cape Town at 13h00 and had been travelling leisurely along the southern edge of the country.

The road trip for me will, eventually, reach it's halfway mark in Johannesburg this weekend, where I will be seeing my darling mother for the first time in two years. She lives in London.

This is also a view (which none of my amateur photograohic skills could ever do justice to, much to my dismay!) of my favourite ocean: the warm and passionately tempestuous Indian ocean.

I stood there guzzling in both the ozone-laden ocean air and the view to what felt to be the very edge of our universe. And all of this beneath a waxing-beautiful moon (it's full tonight).

God is so in every single detail.

Oh my beautiful country on the southern tip of Africa, with its blood and hatred-soaked history, you are entwined with me and I am of you.

Thanks for everything Tata (father) Madiba - who was put to rest the next day - thanks for everything; your long walk (for our freedom) is done. God bless you, God bless Africa.

Hamba kahle (go well) Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela; thank you.

Little did we know what lay before us on our journey, that very night...

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Perched in my Observatory

A full and deep night of delicious sleep was followed by the most intensely gorgeous Saturday summer morning.

It's summer holiday time in the southern hemisphere; our world grinds closer to a sun-soaked and complete halt with every passing day.

Now, hours later, it's high noon in Long Street: I'm at a bustling, crockery clunking Yours Truly coffee shop savouring a tinny rendition of Rodriguez's Sugar Man: wifi, Rayban aviators, robust ficus in a humongous charcoal-painted pot, beautifully hanging youth, all the languages of Babel (and more).

Also a beautiful ginger - wearing jeans, a faded black tshirt and an exuberant moustache, beard and pony tail: thick.and healthy hair that I want to reach out and touch - orders an americano.

I'm getting ahead of myself though: Breakfast and coffee in Observatory was my first stop,; eggs, bacon, toast and photos.

It turns me on that by merely looking up I can see some, only some (considering that the Khoi San people were here, first, for centuries and obviously never left more than paintings, footprints, relics), of the history of a street and suburb...especially when it can look so horrifyingly 'modern' at street level.

A skater in short shorts and a navy blue vest zooms by in no less than a flash.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Raw-red morning

Sunday morning stillness, except for someone in the kitchen, the breeze in the trees, as I write my heart out in the pages.
Coffee aroma.
Cat on the window sill.
Devil's Peak stark against the summer-cobalt sky.
Faded pink hibiscus flowers, with raw-red stamens dusted in luminous yellow, in full bloom on the street below.
Blood droplet Christ-thorn too.
And quiet.
Morning has broken.
God in the detail.

Saturday, November 30, 2013


It's been a chilly and moody day, in Newlands at least; that doesn't mean it wasn't a perfect beach day on the Atlantic seaboard.

I'm in bed reading. An empty wine glass - except for red dregs on its inside - on my bedside table; a blue-patterned dinner plate that until recently contained scrumptious muscles on provita biscuits is at its side.

I've chosen a quite day and night; it's peace and silence is what I've sought after a week that brimmed over.

Now as I listen to the robust wind in the trees as I reach over to turn out the light, as I turn in.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


It's the reek of chopped onions. The sound of early evening traffic, the last of peak hour on Main road, Rosebank, seeping in through the open, barred, windows.
They're closing down the flat for a quarter of a year; their last exams were written today. They leave for Kzn at 2am.  The flat is to be mothballed. They're back in February, for the new academic year. 
Overheard from the kitchenette:
'Do you want some wine gorgeus?'
'I'm good.'
'Cold drink?
He pours a blue and silver foil-fresh packet of salt and vinegar Simba crisps, made in Africa, into a large white tupperware bowl, made in China. Nice, my addiction sorted!
I pour - glunk glunk - a cheap but practical thick-glass wineglass full of burgundy (I instinctively knew it was colour as I drunkenly peered at it).
I bought the bottle, after a little thought I admit, at a threadbare Checkers on the way here; the pedometer app on my phone informs me that I took 8792 steps between home and here. By needing my space I burnt 302 calories.
I love walking. Especially when I'm ratty, like today, and pissed off. Piss off Lee, you're getting on my tits.
Odd Bins number 921.
Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2012.
'Wild berries and liquorice, with hints of pepper on a lingering finish.'
From the Swartland.
Now I'm well drunk. But I'm ecstatic that it's summer and that the country will be shutting down for the summer holidays in two to three weeks.
I will work home later, after supper.
Have a safe journey guys.
The moon is waning.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Helter / skelter

I can't see the mountain and it can't see me: Friday night reflections in the cottage panes / rain against the roof and windows / looking across at the neighbour's home and the street lamp / while the ghosts of the past peer over my shoulder: happiness is red wine, musty books & attic blues (I'm on top the world).
I'm in bed now, listening to the rain pelt nonstop against the roof, and windows, and dripping rapid fire from the eves. I'm comfortably, peacefully cocooned in the overwhelming isolation of the rain-noise. I long to pull the duvet over my face, head. Then to sleep forever.
Good night.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

'Charles time'

The early morning is mine, I'm nurturing me:

My red and glass Bodum plunger is percolating with a quality 100% Arabica bean breakfast blend; the aroma fills the spacious and sunlit attic.

The body-length couch I have to myself and a teenage sphinx cat that's vibrating with life-contentment; we're sharing body warmth.

Despite the sunshine here on the lower slopes, the mountain is dark in cloud shadow and foreboding, more than hinting at the four day's rain that's forecast - hooray!

The house creaks and clicks from the sporadic gusts of wind that sweep the old suburb; it also whistles through the crack-wide open wooden frame windows; these are decorated chess board like with leaden cottage panes.

Other than wind sound a lawn mower hums bumble bee-like in the garden behind, a vacuum cleaner screaches across the downstairs wooden floors, I feel my heart beat against my left chest.

Altthough Natalie Goldberg's 'Writing Down the Bones' and a 1965 Claremont library print of Johannes Meintjies' 'Olive Schreiner Potrait of a South African Woman' entice me from the coffee table, it's my black-cover / red-bound 288-page morning pages counter book that will have my attention. And heart.

Peace and contentment reign.

[I took the photo in Newlands village on perfect day Saturday afternoon while walking home; all-in-all I walked over 10 km in sheer bliss at the day and joie de vivre.]

Monday, November 04, 2013

Cottage pane and birdsong

Working in peace, and quiet, at my desk beneath Devil's Peak; it's dusk on an early summer's evening. Faraway I faintly hear traffic on the M3, a yodelling police siren, also a girl child shrilly hopscotching and singing in the street below.
Despite the peace, it often concerns me that I'm cocooned from the city, from the real world, is this unreal and overly protective suburb that is also so beautiful, and alluring.
It's like wearing thick lenses over my eyes and cotton wool in my ears.
However, I remind myself that I'm recalibrating.
Be gentler on yourself Charles.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

You're alive for a purpose

One of my purposes is to to walk the streets and paths of the world, as an observer-flaneur, even where there are no streets and paths visible to the unseeing eye.

That's why I pray for eyes to truly see with.

I took this moody photo of the Jamia Mosque at dusk on Sunday; I could not resist it, I almost fell out of my car when it beckoned to me from the steep corner of Chiappini and Castle streets in Cape Town's colourful Bo-kaap district, on the slope of Lion's Head.

Without intending it, Sunday afternoons have become trawling times for me, that's when I aimlessly and curiously trawl my adopted city looking to be smacked over the head by its wonders.

According to a just discovered (today) and wonderful website, bokaap.co.za, the Jamia Mosque was established in 1850 in Lower Chiappini Street.

According to the website, this Shafee mosque was the first mosque which was specially granted land for a mosque site; which is also why it's known as Queen Victoria Mosque, because of the patronage of the British Crown. John Muir confirms this in his 2013 edition of 'Walking Cape Town': the British Crown gave the land to the Muslim community in 1850.

Very interestingly this fourth mosque is adjacent to the disused stone quarry where the first Jumu-ah (Friday Congregational prayer) was read in South Africa in 1790.

"It is the biggest mosque in Bo-Kaap and the fifth eldest in South Africa. The minaret was constructed in 1932 and later enlarged ... to accommodate the Hiempu."

The meaning of the next paragraph is unclear to me, but piques my curiosity; I'll have to find out more, can anyone help me?

"The Jamia Mosque is the main Shafee Jumu-ah Mosque in Bo-Kaap and serves as a reminder of the Cape Muslims in the Battle of Blaauwberg and the Battle of the Axe, in order for the construction site for a mosque to be acquired."

A bit more about bokaap.co.za: It's described as a website "about Bo-Kaap and is updated by people who live or have previously lived in Bo-Kaap."

It was started in June 2002 by Rishka Booran-Johnson ... then resident of, and a tour guide within the Bo-Kaap, and in 2010 [was] still run by her.

"Both my parents, all aunts and uncles were born and raised in the BoKaap too," she writes. I love passion projects like these!

My curiosity is also piqued by the street name Chiappini. Was it named after Anthonio Caspar Melchior Balthazar Chiappini, a merchant born circa 1778 in Florence, Tuscany and who died on 30 August 1860 in  Wynberg, and then buried in the Dutch Reformed Church Cemetery, Observatory?

In his petition for permission to remain at the Cape, dated 13th July 1807, presented to then Governor of the Cape, he stated that he was a native of Florence, and had arrived at the Cape on his return from Calcutta, to England in the Danish ship Dannebrog, in the month of October 1803, from circumstances was induced to stay in the Cape and on application to the then existing government procured permission ot the Governor to remain at the Colony.

I wonder what the life purpose of Anthonio Caspar Melchior Balthazar Chiappini was, and why - possibly - was a Cape Town street named after him?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Stop / Go

My second pot of coffee for the day. Kenyan Blue Mountain. Flavourful.

A scorcher of a day; the mountain is hazy in strong and surreal sunlight. I'd love to be free and at Kirtsenbosch gardens.

Stripped to my underwear I'm attempting to work, at home. It's a hurry up and wait scenario reminiscent of my army days. Stop. Go. Stop. I'm being ground to a halt by technology shit, endlessly. While my Netbook has served me well the last three and a half years it's way past its sell-by date. Long past. I could hurtle it through the attic's picture perfect cottage panes.

One iPad charging.
One Samsung on flight mode to avoid interruptions.
One alarm set for 90 minutes from now.
One empty frog faced coffee mug.
One half full Bodum french press; it's an old and battered white one, my favourite in the house.
One swimming pool waiting for me, after my alarm had rung.
One neighbour's lawn mower cutting dry grass and mincing pebbles.

Where I'd rather be? The Seapoint photo I took yesterday says it all.


Sunday, October 27, 2013


I only had one coffee today, no sugar, with flat-cigar pancakes gritty with brown-sugar-cinnamon, soaked with most wonderful acid-squeezed from lemon chunks. For breakfast. With two table level girls eyeing the swimming pool on what was one of many (haha) first days of this summer.
I thought of Christmas trees and Christmas, happily and longingly; a moonchild moment of a 6-year old me in summer pyjamas with big mince pie eyes waiting for my first watch and camera. Ok maybe I'm collapsing the years and mixing memories, but that's - ok - with ME.
Releasing myself from self-imposed pressure - to do this and to do that all before then - I floated gaily, lightly through the weekend holding hands with the Page of Pentacles. I'd put myself under way too much pressure, and then collapsed at its end, of the first half of my life.
We're all going to die.
But we do get to choose how we want to live.
Is this the person you want to be?
Is this the person you want to love?
Make a decision. Then let the consequences unfold (they're out of your hands).
It was a blue sky day.
The mountain was hot and granite-stark against the sky. The knuckled spine of great trees along both sides of Ravensburg-Newlands, cool and lush with viper-green leaves, no longer rememory me of the skeletal claws that previously scratched the winter sky. Not that long ago.
Then red wine, heat, crisps and a happy-smiling-curly haired toddler still mashing-squawking new words. And old friend's company, the heady pleasure of.
Then instagram, and ice cream, and esplanade in Seapoint; also thoughts of Lawrence G Green, writer, who once lived here, dying I think in 1973.
Home slowly via the gaudy Bo-kaap; tea with yesterday-very fresh grenadilla cake on the deck outside my attic room: I counted my succulents in the dark while winking back at the evening star and thinking what is the one thing a writer could do write now.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Contemporary amorality (a changed Cape Town)

On Wednesday evening I wrote some of my thoughts down here about living in Cape Town. Which is why I was very interested to read these excerpts from Stephen Watson's 'Writer's Diary' (1997), as published in 'Cape Town Calling', edited by Justin Fox (Tafelberg: 2007). It's on my bedside table right now.
19 September 1996
The changing city.

"Not far into the next century I suspect that Cape Town, a city remarkable for having a mountain in the middle of it, will have managed to relegate even its natural environment to a kind of sideshow freak show. For a moment, though, as one half of it takes on the patina, the glaze of a giant Club Med, one sees clearly why the feel of the place has changed. More and more, it has become a city which specialises in marrying fantastically sophisticated surfaces (technologically-speaking) and utterly childish values.

"And, strange to say, it is precisely this combination which defines the very texture - which is to say, the feel - of contemporary amorality.

"From week to week the newspapers carry the usual flapdoodle about restaurants and wines, as if it were a sign of the city's coming of age, even cause for self-congratulation, that one can now eat as variously, as profusely, and expensively here, as almost anywhere else on the planet.
But not so long ago there was a tradition that maintained that such displays of complacent ostentation, especially in the midst of poverty and destitution, were not only acts of human thoughtlessness, but were sins and that they remained sins.

"One of the chief effects of 1994, it sometimes seems, is to have granted a permanent vacation to consciences of those who might have once, back in the apartheid era, have felt a residual shame that they possessed everything while others had next to nothing. And so one hears not a murmur of such things. Even to raise the issue these days would be regarded nowadays as a kind of childish puritanism; or envy masquerading as high-mindedness. For we live in a cultural moment, now virtually global, in which even to speak of morality is to somehow sounds moralistic."

[I took the photos in Leeuwen street in the Bo Kaap three Sunday afternoons ago.]

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Devil's Peak

Walking home after gym in the dark - how relieved I was to have finally gotten there, I still cannot believe how I'd put off going - I stared into the heart and labyrinths of homes along the route; well, into those that I could see into at least, those with hearts of light.

It was a clear night, and because the moon is waxing, the mountain - Devil's Peak - was lighted up and  ghostily clear against a navy-charcoal sky. Solid, reassuring, silent but seeing; I felt connected, rooted and safe.

It's the folk living down below, in the well heeled suburbs that I was silently and unseen making my way through, who aren't feeling safe.

They have barricaded themselves into their homes, behind high walls, insurmountably dangerous fences, wall spikes, endless reels of barbed wire and electric fencing, motion sensors and beams, with armed response on mountain bikes or in motor vehicles for extra protection.

On this southern tip of Africa there's a sense that the weight of an entire continent is crushing down on to to this rocky, sometimes windswept peninsular, that people are between a rock and a hard place. Precariously perched, under attack, unable to leave their lagers.

I wondered if it was worth it, living like this.

I'm negotiating my way through my new life in this city. Postcard pretty, superficially perfect, hardly a crack to be seen, at first. Into my fourth month here I find myself seeking a survival formula with which to justify my existence here. I also need to appease my conscious.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

It's been a long day's month

It's been a long day; at the end of it I pulled myself out of and off my bed-desk and into the shower, then grabbed my gym bag and walked to my local Seattle Coffee at Cavendish. 

I'm there now, typing these words (as the grim faced platinum blonde older woman to my right pulls herself up and off her half of the plump leather couch).

I've not written for a long time, it's been at least about a month of aridness.

My eyes have deteriorated; typing these words on the screen of my new phone I'm (again) grimly aware of the fact. (I cant help but notice my own drought-ridden and grim imagery!) Last week I bought a mustard coloured, and funky,  pair of over-the-counter spectacles. They do make happy, and sharp-eyed.

I took the photo of the blue walled, red roofed house in Observatory on Sunday. It drew my attention right away, as I parked my car in the only shade tree on that stretch of Arnold road, before lunch with Mike and Nic. I knew it would be a striking photograph.

Lunch was very good; their relatively ancient and history-oozing home with its enormous sash windows framing the Cape's cobalt sky, Nic's culinary skills, also more than enough wit, wisdom and intelligence, all contributed to The Pot.

I'm very much changed since my last post, written on a cold and blustery wet Saturday old afternoon at Kirtsenbosch. I'm not sure what exactly, nor how, but I know I'm changed. For one I don't have many more secrets, not that I'm the most open book here I hastily add. Working on that I am.

I had my phone stolen out my hands about two or three weeks ago. While I was taking photos, in what I had judged to be a safe space. That shook me. A three-person team, including a woman and a panel van. I've struggled to photograph ever since; there was at least a two-week 100% drought before the shutter sounded in my ears again.

From the literature I've been reading - two volumes of collected writings about Cape Town, also two books about slavery, another two about Cape Flats gangs and prisons, including Jonny Steinberg's The Number - and my mugging, I've become aware of  another side of this city. A dark side, lurking. During the last month the annual crime stats for Cape Town were released: just over 2560 murders for the last measured year. Try and unpack that in your mind! If you can that is. I've not been successful.

There's no escaping, ever, the enormous chasm between the extreme povery and extreme wealth of people in this city. Whatever you own, or do, or eat or drink, or drive, or cycle here is somehow pitted against what others, many many others, don't have. Or even can come close to having. There's no escaping it. Shadows everwhere, inescapable. Except on an illusionary level for the brash and uncaring, whom are able to treat the enormously less privileged as vermin, as rats. That I'm incapable of doing, of even wanting to do.

I've also not been to gym in a month. Which is very much an integral part of my mental wellbeing, stability, and centeredness. But I'm going now.

At least the spring has arrived, even though it can get very chilly as the late afternoon blurs into evening. However the ferocious summer will hit in full force, not long after Christmas; there are only 10 weeks to Christmas.

I'm happy. Very. And I'm very well. My life has, again, completely and utterly altered.

Good night.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Happy birthday, calm, sex and solace

A cup of good filter coffee accompanied by a rich and moist chocolate brownie made with Belgian chocolate.

That's how I'm celebrating Kirstenbosch National Botanic Garden's centenary - it's 100 years old this year - at the busy and old style Kirstenbosch Tea Garden; in the very corner table for two, on a moody but still dry Saturday afternoon. The waitress's face says it all: I'm dead tired on my feet, it's late in the day, please don't tax me, please don't say long. [What does mine say? This is about me, not you; stay out of my way I have words to put down on the page. Or else I'll die. And dont forget to bring coffee.]

I slowly meandered up to the restaurant taking in the garden smells, and moods, and snuffled at the fynbos-rich air, picking apart the intriguing scents all intertwined with each other. I also pulled my jacket and hoody up tight and warm against my body, to ward off the cold.

Gardens have always played a crucial-interesting role in my life: They remain places that I escape too from the clautrophobia of the city environment, literally when I've lost the ability to see the wood from the trees, no pun intended.

Gardens are places of personal calm and centredness; they are also places of tears and heart searching; places where I have read and written, where I have walked dogs, my own and others', seduced and celebrated lovers, and where I've sought out and then keenly watched the lines and erratic graph of my own horizon. I have also often run into gardens seeking clarity and direction relating to my life's calamities. Finding solace.

My sexaulity, and my sexualness, have also been wrapped up in gardens. But that's another post - probably long winding and intense,  also maybe intriguing - for another time. But only to be written after I've grown the balls, my balls, to be an honest writer, a real writer, as opposed to a PR writer of my own life.

Most, most importantly I have gone to gardens to seek my creator; I've never been disappointed, God exists for me in Nature.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Orphan plant / Words are all I have

The storm has passed. For now.

It raged against and buffeted the house, while I meekly listened from beneath the covers.

I'm also at peace now, having fought heart and mind battles on the slopes of Mordor (Newlands, Capetown).

Now it's plunger coffee and jungle oats on the balcony outside my attic bedroom.

It's me and the orphan tomato plant that I was gifted on the West Coast by a hard working farmer and entrepreneur in Hopefield, when I visited last month.

It was a crisp blue-sky day set against snow-white on the not so distant mountains. Veld flowers were blooming (white, mauve and yellow, but mostly white), the red sand road was long and wide and inviting; it was a wonderful reminder of the joy of being alive. And well. And blessed.

I've regrouped and centered myself. I listen to the birds in the less bare trees, their song is sharp and clear; I hear the fast-flowing iron-brown water river that's at least two houses away.

I swim in words, I breathe in words, I think and dream in words, I am words. 

All I have are words.

I humble myself - seeking neither fame nor fortune from words - and ask the world, also humanity, how I may serve them with words (since they are all I have)?

So as to encourage via words, or to hold up the mirror, so that all may lift their heads and again see the beauty of this world, and the beauty entwined like DNA in this life journey 'thing' we all share.

Or how else may I serve with words?

Friday, September 13, 2013


Tonight, as I listen to the storm rage against the mountain and the forest and the trees in the street and this house, my heart is sore.

I wrote down my usual prayer for peace this afternoon, in my morning pages book, at Seattle Coffee, Cavendish. But it's the first time I prayed it this week.

Perhaps I've lost my way these last few days, allowing myself to be distracted from my path, the one I've chosen to tread, albeit a lonely one at times, on the road less travelled.

A peaceful path though, one of simple and minimalist contentment, joy.

Wind howls, thrashes itself against the roof, which are the walls of my attic home. So loud that at times I cannot hear myself think, causing me to clench my jaw and teeth, and to furrow-frown my brow.

Opening myself, and my heart, to strangers; tying up my soul in knots with theirs, and theirs.

Life of years has taught me to keep the door only slightly ajar, allowing a mere few through.

To pick and choose carefully.

To rather sit alone at the fire, with my cat on my lap, than with a crowd at the feast.

To bed early, to rise early, to give thanks on my knees before the sunrise.

To listen to the wisdom in the wind. To count my pulse, and to know that I am alive.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The rage at this particular mortal coil

Sometimes, in fact pretty often lately, not unlike the storm clouds from Antartica that roll and storm over Table Mountain, my rage erupts like over-boiled milk in a cheap, battered aluminium pot that's way too small to contain its anger-rage-boil.

My rage at me, and at my complacency; at my inability to get off my fucking middle class arse.

Rage at the inability to be honest in my words, at my inability to write out my life; at my inability to live intensely,  deeply, passionately, to suck out and swallow the marrow from the bone of my life.

I am close to erupting and to fuckingwell explode into words, to sear and cook my own meat-flesh with the moltem lava of my words and truth.

The rage. The rage.

Where are my balls

Monday, September 02, 2013

Snow's melting on my mountain

I'm sitting in the warm corner of the staff dining room, where the temperature seems thankfully higher, the signal stronger than elsewhere on campus, the neon green under the plastic easy-wipe table-cloth brighter, greener.

A cold front of endless storms continues to blast the Cape of Good Hope; snow on Table Mountain this morning (quite rare, apparently), not that I could see any on the shrouded peaks above the house: Newlands is moody Mordor after all.

I was wearing cotton pants, and black slip slops on slender winter-white feet, when the storm arrived five days ago; it arrived very late on Monday afternoon while I was sinking a cafe mocha at Seattle Coffee in Cavendish. I relished the storm's arrival, also its relentless rage-waves.

I love the Cape; I love the weather here; I'm happy here.

It's officially Spring on Sunday. Which still seems very far away from here; I'm well aware that summer arrives early in the north, where I grew up. Right now it'll be dusty and dry up there, with everyone thirsting for the first rains. 

While the grass, and veld, and koppies, will still be winter-brown-bleached-ugly-and-dry, the trees will be optimistically emblazoned in young-bright green. Billowing thunderclouds will also often tease, from a safe distance, on the cobalt blue horizon. Until one static-filled and turbulent-moody afternoon, then they'll roll in close to the earth, for the kill. Elephant grey, pregnant, and streaked haphazardly with searing lightning they'll drench the African earth and nothing will be the same again. Until next year. There will be an all-round sigh of release quickly followed by a deep gulping in of the sweetest ion-laden oxygen.

I fly to Port Elizabeth tomorrow, then drive to Grahamstown for the 17th Highway Africa digital journalism conference taking place there in my beloved Grahamstown.

Grahamstown, Port Elizabeth, the Eastern Cape; they are intrinsically entwined into my DNA strands.

My heart beat increases as my thoughts travel in advance towards there.

[The above I scribbled on a napkin on Friday afternoon, last week.]

I'm now far above the Karoo, the Eastern Cape.

Rolling storms continued to berate and punish Cape Town over night and I don't believe it's going to end until about Tuesday next week.

The woman next to me has just farted; anger and disgust flood me, I hotel she can read these words.

I had less sleep than necessary last night; my words feel meaningless and like dry, dead wood. I continue, writing, writing the paper dry tinder to sparks and flames. I've been taught to write through the obstacles, the heavy deadness.

This morning I'll drive through Port Elizabeth, catching up on changes, refreshing my memories and mind, drawing in deep the fynbos oxygen, and gale force winds, of this city I adore and have spent so much physical, mental and emotional time within.

I see sparks; I'm cranking up the heat. My shoulders are hunched over my iPad; I'm already there.

Port Elizabeth, Grahamstown, Rhodes University, the Eastern Cape province have all played integral roles in the making of me.

PE, as it's more commonly known. I grew up there in the December summer holidays of my childhood and youth.

[Those are my in-flight notes from Saturday morning; I procrastinate my very own flow of notes.]

Photo: Cape Town International's domestic terminal early on Saturday morning. Storm drenched.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


The house has a life of its own, all houses do. It's settling down now, into calm, it's arms protectively around the slumbering bodies below.

Creak. Shudder. Silence.

Water drips outside the lead pane window, the one alongside the eggshell white chest of six drawers.

The only other sound, this instance, is the omniscient hiss of my blood through my ear drums.

Other than that I lie on my back in silence, in warmth, not at all aware of being part of a city.

Alone with my thoughts, dreams, memories amd half-memories,  aware that they may no longer be the truth. Whatever that is.

The path that lies behind me is obscured by many things; sometimes I see my tracks in bright sunshine; often it is murky darkness that obscures them; other times it's Yeats' 'half light' that treads across-and-through my dreams. Either way I find myself wishing for the 'cloths of heaven'. That's my one constant.

I'm alone with my journey tonight, sleeping in the woods alongside my path, which stumbles, stalls, falters, but always constantly. Before sleeping,  despite how many people or animals surrounds one, we are always alone.

I try to imagine my death moment, of course I'm not at all sure it'll be a deathbed one. I'll be alone like now, and fearless. What is there to fear? Alone, but more intense than now; even much more peaceful and content.

This attic, the pinnacle of this house, is cozy on this late winter's night. Cozy with the body warmth from the sleeping bodies below: two cats, two children, two adults, and a dog.

There's a car that I can hear in the road below.

The mountain looks much smaller than reality in the photo. Much smaller. That is the view from one of the many attic windows. On a sunny day of course.

Spring approaches. It's already arrived in the north of my country. Still 1600 km away, plus minus.

I give thanks for all that I have. Most of all for my peace. And for wisdom, especially grace.

How blessed am I.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Keep on walking for yourself

The sun is shining brightly today, it's a paradise-like kinda day. My spirits are lifted, they have been for a few days now.

Not so the first half of last week. It was a low level depressed murkiness that I listlessly waded through. The weather played a part in that, not that I'm in any way averse to rain and moodiness and Mordor-like storms darkening and threatening my particular view of The Mountain.

I've also promised myself not to be hard on me: I've been a cruel taskmaster to self for most of my life. Enough of that now. That ended with last year's breakdown.

A year ago I was preparing myself for my - major - move to Salt Rock. Last August this time I was barely walking on extremely shaky legs, fear ruled me, the ashes were still smouldering. There was hardly any belief in the return of a phoenix. Although I am, eternally, an optimist.

One thing is for sure: last year this time I could not have ever forseen myself living and working in Cape Town a year later. My plan did not extend that far. Nor did it need to.

What I have let slip these last few months - for the first time since early 2001 - is my daily Morning Pages excerise of writing three full scap pages upon waking.

I wrote them this morning though.

The cost of not meeting beneath the tree, at the centre of the pages before taking a walk with my Creator - through our secret garden - is extremely high: the second I commit my heart and pen to the pages is the instant that I'm connected and intrinsically know their invaluableness; never a second before.

The cost is an awful disconnection that clogs my life and aliveness, veins and arteries, with the stagnant green muck that mosquito-owned Dead Sea swamp soups are made of. I become my descent into the living-dead.

In that space, like 99.9% of the population,  I am open to the God-awful influence and seduction-pressure of, for the one, the media. I move into a space of struggling, striving and pleasing so as to carve myself a space.

That's as opposed to remaining centred and calm - praying daily for peace, for enough, also for wisdom and understanding - and faithfully trusting that I'm on my life's path.

Trusting that everything will be taken care of, that like the veld flowers or the wild birds, I can cease striving and struggling, that it is safe, and right, to live fully in the moment.

Fully seizing this day, for - wonderfully - it's truly all I have.

Photo: On 9 August I took a drive up the West Coast to spend a wonderful day with family in Hopefield.

Snow capped mountains in the near distance, and a country sand road beneath a blue sky, does things to me.

Like exciting me to start walking, with just a pack on my back, and to never stop.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The water is wide

Whale Tale. Naturally brewed. In Kaapstad, naturally. 

Yesterday I woke to a wonderfully winter Sunday that gushed and frothed with unexpected and sharp gusts of wind. These rattled the skeletal trees around the suburb (Newlands is often referred to as Mordor, not least because of the stormy-turbulent darkness maelstrom that invisibles the terrifying peaks above us) and lead panes; so I remained in bed reading, also dozing off, the entire day. 

Eventually, at 7pm, I forced myself up and into the shower and then my scarf.

Then to Cocoa Wah Wah in Rondebosch, which in good weather would be a pleasant but long walk away.

That's how I got to wash down this "light ale that boasts a soft caramel maltiness, complimented with a typically crisp Hallertauer hop finish". 

I used to live, unconsciously, in broad sweeps of my artist's brush; now it's the immaculately-fine brush-details of life intensely lived that brings me enormous joy, satisfaction.

Yet it feels as though I've lost my edge. Perhaps it's the price I'm paying for my prayer, daily, for peace. Perhaps, I'm still unsure, I've had to exchange my extremely sharp-edged sword for peace. Not yet quite sure if I'm at peace about my barter deal.

Perhaps the question I need to ask myself is whether I've compromised my soul, or whether I've sold it down the river.

I'm reading, just started, The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy. I'm relatively new to him via South of Broad. Speaking of rivers that is... .

Voluntarily cannibalising Me//Self

I feel invisible. In the corner of the coffee shop-restaurant. I feel far away and unnoticed,  that I haven't - quite/yet - found my groove in this secretly-textured city. It's fine to be invisible while seeking myself. While deciding which role, exactly, to play in this particular short novel of my life. Or is it a full length novel.

I've ordered breakfast to partner my cappuccino.

It's a low-slung grey afternoon with fine but steady rain that has soak-ability. I awoke with the cold front arriving, and with it's glacier slow march across the city and northwards across the country, my melancholy levels have shot the bucket.

[Don't edit now Charles. Come back with your left brain later; please don't get in the way now.]

I peer at me in the industrial-like mirror in the makeshift toilet, with its badly painted hardwood walls: I look at my stranger's face, at the red blemishes on my face from previous stress times, recently resurfaced. I shaved with a razor yesterday, the first time in years; I'm uncomfortable with my visages.

Scrambling to get my words down, the metal, square, triangular, circular words will not be forced throught the jagged mesh of my mind: nothing is sitting comfortably. Nothing is sitting at all.

Back at my table - for maximum two - in the furthest corner of this coffee/food realm I bite the complimentary baby chocolate brownie and bitterly gulp at the americano. I'm tasting myself in objects.

I participated in the Getaway Travel Blogging Conference last Saturday. I learnt not a thing new. Instead I realised I was there to question what my writing future holds; the future of this blog. 

Why on earth should I be blogging at all? 

I lost my focus a while ago, is what I was going to write as truth. However the truth is that my life has, in the last year, turned upon itself and began a process of self devouring: the voluntary cannibalism of self. All good though.  I've long highlighted that I certainly screwed up the first half of my life, that the segind half I will continue doing things utterly differently.

To write? If so, to write what? And why? Who gives a fuck?

Thursday, August 01, 2013

The trees are in their winter beauty (or substation blues & reds)

The woodland paths are anything but dry; we've not seen the sun, on this side of The Mountain, for at least a week. But today the sun is blazing: 26 degrees centigrade, a pleasure.

Not that I'll ever have a problem with the wide-flat squalls of rain lashing the roof, slating the house's lead paned windows in irregular batches.

It evokes life-passion within me - I am more alive in those moments, when my skin crawls with both my aliveness and deathness: I am so alive that my death hums-breathes-roars-and-curtsies through my veins and arteries like the energy surging through the cables from a substation.

I attempt to choose my exit from the house carefully, as if by squinting heavenwards I can read the downpour gaps - mind the gap! - in the tumultuous-ominous elephantine cloud banks that rage over-against-upwards the mountain.

It's in those ill-predicted gaps that I squirrel through the wet tar streets voyeuring through modern double glazed windows - and ancienter windows too, glass rheumy with history-age and the withered-white families that have ghosted these dank passages and living [s]places - looking for life and curiosity.

Everything is new to me: these bare European trees of the Cape, the different looking people that every then and now catch me staring, analysing, wondering; I quickly look away - I'm innocent my game proclaims! The birds, the different-many angles and peaks of The Mountain, the luminous tailed squirrels that leap springbok like from there to here and back again, then zig-zag zig-zap up a tree, across,  and then back down again

I leave the peace of the house, my room in the roof with a view, for the cluttered steam-windowed coffee shops and bistros, where I sweat blood to put down my words. And to walk with my ever faithfull Maker through-and-across-and-over the pages... in-and-then-out-again of my heart of darkness.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Beneath the rain

The rain, the rain has washed away my tracks,  not unlike butter spread on cat paws; now I'm under the wonderful disillusion that I've lived here all my life, nowhere else. Cape Town has been like that me, which is why - this time - it feels to me that I've been adopted, not the other way around.

They've been big-fat-splat drops that have made a defenite, welcome impact against the windows and the roof. Juicy and ripe drops that have fallen heavily. Then burst.

I'm living above a house now,  just beneath the heavy-sky rain. It's a wonderfully odd shaped room of many angles, precise triangles. It's a broken white painted wood-panelled room, floor straight to ceiling,  with a lead paned window and a double lead pane French door that opens onto a medium sized roof deck that's all mine.

It's a delicious attic room with a stand alone wooden wardrobe that gives me unfettered access to the Newlands Forest,  the Rhodes Memorial, and Narnia; I've my lion and a witch. I moved in here on Thursday. At last I'll have time to ingratiate myself with my 6 year-old God daughter,  Lily Rose.

There are four books on my bedside table, three of which are intricately linked to Cape Town. The fourth book, Werfsonde by Kleinboer, harks back to Yeoville, Johannesburg, and reminds me that I do in fact have Transvaal tendrils and roots.

I've moved back into the coffee shop, amongst the people and books and coffeearoma. Next to a young couple tentatively feeling around themselves: "If you ever hurt me...", I'm worried that his deep nasal voice and wandering mind might put me to sleep. I'm automatically protective of her youthful wholesomeness, in memory of mine (long, long gone), not ever wanting it cracked or broken. I'm not made to bring offspring on to this planet, I wouldn't be able to sleep at night.

I moved into Newlands on Thursday;  right beneath The Mountain, it's known as the southern suburbs 'burb with the most rainfall. I've no problem with that of course: red wine, good coffee, books, wood smoke and soot blackened hearths. Not to mention my attic room.

In brackets: "The flâneur has no specific relationship with any individual, yet he establishes a temporary, yet deeply empathetic and intimate relationship with all that he sees--an intimacy bordering on the conjugal--writing a bit of himself into the margins of the text in which he is immersed, a text devised by selective disjunction." (www.thelemming.com)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Book Lounge delights

Lauren Beukes (of The Shining Girls fame) and Charlie Human, author of 'Apocalypse Now Now', in conversation - at the book's launch - at The Book Lounge in Roeland Street, Cape Town.

It's my first literary anything in the city, and I'm without doubt, not the last. It's just one of the many reasons I chose to leave Waterval Boven for last August.

I love how the street characters (read crazies) meander in and though the shop,  straight off the pavement. Gracefully they greet the arty farty yoga practicing vegetarian majority. I'm at home.

This is undoubtedly one of the great bookshops of the Cape.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Cape of Good Hope

After a long weekend in the Drakensburg - sans electricity and mobile phone signal,  relying on solar polar (which suited me perfectly) - celebrating two birthdays and saying goodbye, we returned to Durban.

I packed hastily and left early afternoon via the backroads for Cape Town. I had great intentions for the journey. I wanted it to be a lingering one via places I'd not seen before, and to nostalgically revisit places that impressed my heart and mind. Like Hogsback in the Amatola mountains,  and Grahamston to see my friend Mathe and to experience the annual arts festival.

An unexpected challenge was that I had to be Cape Town by 14h30 this past Wednesday, for a meeting with the HR department of the university. If I mised that I would not be included on the payroll this month. Considering that I was employed from 1 July and that I would begin lecturing on the 22nd (my number from God), I decided that I'd better put foot.

Two thousand kilometers later I got into bed in Cape Town at 4am. Exhausted from both the journey and a gruelling month of  wrapping up a relatively new life, and work, in Durban and Salt Rock (I was there 10 months).

These photos I took on Wednesday afternoon: they are of  the Camps Bay suburb of Caoe Town, the sun setting on the nearby Twelve Apostles, and then of the sun dipping into, this time, into the icy Atlantic. I will, however, truly miss the exotic and warm and wild Indian Ocean.

It is surreal being in a city that im passionate about, one that I've only ever visited as a tourist amd on vacation, but to know that I won't be leaving.

How blessed am I!

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Deliberately living

I'm doing well. I spent my long weekend in the Drakensburg, mostly reading next to a log fire; tonight, my first in Cape Town, I'm again sitting next to a fire drinking red wine and listening to the tick-tock of a black and white clock.

The Drakensburg was awesome,  it's over a decade since I was last there. And within two nights I am just over two thousand kilometres away from the heavy but never oppressive silence and its champagne clear air.

In the corporate world,  before I left it, I always steered clear of fire smoke and eating garlic... because I was always thinking of clients and colleagues, and off putting smells. Some of life's finest moments are intertwined with fire smoke and garlic I've learned.. now I shy away from neither, they are my ecstatic celebration of life.