Thursday, May 30, 2013

Real. And colourblind; thank God

Last week I clearly remembered the shiny yellow enamel-painted walls of the living room; the years fell away like irrelevant scales.
Also,  clear as yesterday, was Eric's haphazard garden, more overgrown though. And the quaint bathroom shower, as I walked past it to get to the garden.
The visit had begun on a formal, serious note - Ruth nowhere to be seen, despite having taken my a call not ten minutes before getting there - and Eric sitting on a chair quite far away from me, quite stiffly on the chair; bizarrely it felt like the first uncomfortable ten minutes of a date.
We quickly relaxed into laughter, God talk, Ruth, tea and dampish coarse and yellow homemade rusks. Also stories of Struis Bay, this 70-year old house, Eric's bursary - in 1985 - to America, where the entire family lived in Connecticut while he completed two Masters' degrees; Ruth also baby sat so that they could survive financially.
Also the story of his broken leg in Denmark; when he cycled from the university library and slipped on treacherous ice, ending up seriously damaged in hospital.
There he was - again - saved by the kindness of strangers, in particular colour-blind Danish strangers. He is an enormously gregarious and lovable man.

We met on the eve of the new millenium in Stellenbosch. Beneath,  rather ironically, a statue of Danie Craven. The statue to Craven, with a rugby ball in hands, and his dog named "Bliksem" (Afrikaans for "rascal"), is at Coetzenburg.

I had happened on the statue by accident, after an entire day excitedly exploring the university town, and especially the botanic garden on foot. Eric was out on one of his many long and fact-filled walks that I was yet to experience.
The friendship was instant; what all have I learnded, how blessed am I by a transcending bond. Thirteen years on and we are still friends; in August last year he turned 70.

Back to the statue. More simply known as Doc Craven, he was arguably South Africa's best and best-known rugby administrators. Doc died in 1993 after serving for an unbroken 37 years at the head of the sport.
Hailing from Lindley in Free State province,  he studied at Stellenbosch University. There he recieved his doctorate, and eventually also lectured, and played for the Western Province rugby union team.
Most interestingly for me, Craven boldy met with leaders of the then banned ANC in Zimbabwe in 1988. With them he entered an unprecedented deal to form a single rugby associaton fielding a racially integrated team (rather novel for apartheid SA) for foreign tournaments.
Many right-wing whites considered this treason, and then-president PW Botha denounced the move.

At the end of that long and hot late-December day in 1999 my new-found friend returned to his home, with its yellow enamel painted walls. I was yet to visit him there many times.
He was heading home to the township that had been designated for folk of his particular skin colour. It was just outside of Stellenbosch; '94 was not that distant.
As for me, well I - again unsataited -returned to feast at Cape Town's pots of flesh. (Happy new year!)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Walking on sunshine at Thompson's Bay

These days have been picture card perfect; I've been endlessly in-and-out of the ocean this last week and a bit; not for a minute have I taken my proximity to the sea edge for granted,  especially knowing that it could be cut short.

Sunday I finally walked down a path to the sea that I have always driven past; probably due to my aversion to crowds and holidaymakers. I berate myself for having not explored Thompson's Bay in Ballito sooner. The late afternoon sunshine lent the beach, bay and amenities a glow I've often experienced during the autumn and winter months on the south and north coasts of KwaZulu-Natal: "walking on sunshine", the lyrics describe it well; sunshine seeped through Illovo golden syrup also comes, strongly, to mind. I didn't swim though: the light was fading and I had herbs, also peas and lettuce seeds that I wanted to plant.

Right now, though, I'm cosied up indoors listening to the relieving patter of the rain on the cement floor outside, and the earth, while breathing in air washed clean;  earlier there was two, just two peals of thunder, how polite.

Marking assignments, still reading Theroux,  lots of things on the boil, teaching and being taught, drinking coffee, thinking: the last two weeks have been tumultuous. Busy.

I returned from Cape Town last Monday night,  literally into the thick air-and-reek-of-ocean-swamp-frogs-crickets-and birds of the subtropical humid-dense-but wonderful coastline north of Durban. The interview went very well. I expect to hear about the post there within days. Yes, or No,  either way my life will dramatically alter. Again (how blessed am I). But especially if yes. I can't worry about that now;  I did my best, it's out of my hands.
(I would enjoy the Cape's secret season though, not to mention squawking-shrieking Seapoint seagulls.)
Dear Jonathan Livingstone Seagull,  I just called to say...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Word sex

I am in awe of American travel writer and novelist Paul Theroux, especially his travel writing. 

It's a magnificent winter's day here on the North Coast - 28 degrees Celsius without a single cloud in the sky, Tiffany's beach is 250 m away and depending on the direction of the breeze, I can hear the crashing waves. Yet I'm enthralled by Theroux's words; I'm putting off work and my morning dip so enthralled I am, yet again, by one of his books: The Pillars of Hercules: A grand tour of the Mediterranean, published in 1995.

I've long ago learnt to write down the words of the writers you admire: I'm to feel the tempo, the heat of their words; to imbibe their rhythm and style.

"I took a water-bus from the Lido to Venice proper, and approaching this city in the sea, glittering in brilliant sunshine, I began to goggle, trembling a little, feeling a physical thrill and unease in the presence of such beauty,  an exultation amounting almost to fear.

"Venice is magic, the loveliest city in the world, because it has entirely displaced its islands with palaces and villas and churches. It is man-made, but a work of genius, sparkling in its own lagoon, floating on its dreamy reflection,  with the shapeliest bridges and the last perfect skyline on earth: just domes and spires and tiled roofs. It is one colour,  the mellowest stone. There is no sign of land, no earth at all, only water traffic and canals. Everyone knows this, and yet no one is prepared for it, and so the enchantment is overwhelming. The fear you feel is the fear of being bewitched and helpless. Its visitors gape at it, speechless with admiration,  hardly believing such splendour can shine forth fron such slimy stones.

"Language cannot do justice to Venice and nothing can detract from its beauty. It floods regularly;  its marble is damaged amd decayed, its paintings rot, it has stinking corners. Its canals are green, some of it looks poisonous,  it is littered, it teems with rats that not even the masses of Venetian cats can cope with ... People still live in Venice, children play in its back streets,  where families turn the cranks of pasta machines, men congregate to smoke, women scorch tomatoes.  In the alleys beggar women cradle their children and hold signs: Please help my family - Ex-Yugoslavia.  Even the fact that Venice is actually sinking and might one day be destroyed if not disappear altogether,  gives it an air of fragility and drama, a passionate mortality."

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Breakfast at Tiffany's

Where I'm staying now is about 400 metres from Tiffany's, a quiet beach known only to locals.

I woke straight from my dreams - tendrils and wisps of them still haunt in-and-around-and-through-me - pulled on clothes, avoided a mirror, and walked against the early morning chill, down the wooded and aromatic path, to the ocean edge.

Morning pages: My creator has met me at the pages and now we're to walk together through our secret garden.

How blessed am I!

Friday, May 10, 2013


It's been a busy week that has wonderdully stretched and challenged me.
I'm tired now.
I'm needing time away from people, and from technology that fosters communication.

I crave time with my God.

Although I've spent the morning working in bed - there really wasn't any reason to get up, especially in this moody weather, the mist-like coastline rain - I was seeped in listlessness and deep tiredness. But nevertheless happy.

Now to treat myself, especially that the work's done: My luxury is a deep foam bath, with candles lit, also soft lighting; while I soak, and read,  and think, and blog. And rest. Albeit that it's early afternoon.

My other joy, today, is that the very first of my spinach seeds sprouted yesterday; today when I woke there were another ten seedlings that had pushed themselves up and through the dark-moist soil. Miracle of life. I planted the seeds last Friday.

Only those whom have pushed their hands and fingers into loamy soil, whom have planted,  sowed and nurtured with the life-giving sun on their necks and back - as their false perceptions of time dissolve into eternity - will know how invaluable time spent in this way benefits us as souls.


Thursday, May 09, 2013

How do I explain?

A cold front has lashed Durban, rain is expected tomorrow and powerful wind has thrashed litter-and-dust-and-crap up the coast or into the ocean.

I'm just out of five hours of lecturing (nope, that's not the word, it's too top-down, perhaps facilitating - in terms of a two-way flow is the more appropriate word) at DUT, and it's been fabulous: I'm energised and reverbrating with life. I'm in awe of, and humbled by the raw talent before me - how I blessed am I!  These are the future communicators and journalists of Africa Rising. I encourage them to blue sky thinking - my mere role, most grateful am I - is to hold up the mirror: So that they may truly see themselves, their potential for doing good and creating light in the world,  and all that they truly, truly are capable of continuing to be. I am humbled.

Today words have washed over me and out of me; I'm spent, utterly, which is what one should be at the very arse end of a day of living one's passion. Nothing more than that is what I need.

Im visiting Florida Road, for a hearty, hot chicken curry. House of Curries. The students sharing The Dream Factory with me suggested Florida Road; this was as we were discussing the fractured Durban society we have all, whether we are conscious of it or not, chosen to embrace. For now.


Tuesday, May 07, 2013

I've got skinny legs, and I love them

I'm just back from a slow walk along Umhlanga's promenade: I've a passion for blustery salt-soaked swathes of wind straight off the ocean, also for lighthouses. This particular one has featuted quite prominently in my life.
As I got into my car the phone rang; most unexpectedly I have interview for a university lecturing position in Cape Town next Friday.
This somewhat confirms a new stream intertwining with my life's DNA; as recently as last week did I take up a part time journalism lecturing position in Durban.
The sun's warming my face as I savour the dregs of an Americano; just before heading off to gym.
Thank God I've got my smart shoes with me in town.

Oh Jozi, my Jozi (with love from Durban)

The colours, the contrasts - on every single level of this city (Jo'burg) and the people that throng its streets - inspire and intrigue me.Despite sitting at a favourite early morning coffee shop in Umhlanga (my car's in for its first service), and it being a stunningly beautiful coastline day (beneath a crisp blue sky, there's not a single cloud in the sky, I can see seemingly sedate Durban 20 kms away, then the solid olive-green-velvet Bluff), this post is about Johannesburg aka Jo'burg, Jozi, Egoli... the city of gold.

While I know it's winter up there on the Highveld (oh do I have firsthand experience of those!) what I so relish about life on this magnificent stretch of coastline is the climate: every single day I wear shorts and slip slops (I think these are called thongs elsewhere in the world). In fact in my rush  to get down here from Jozi on 25 April I somehow forgot to pack any shoes besides my one pair of 'smart' shoes for when I facilitate, have a job interview, or interview the president, and my cheap Chinese-made slip slops.

But back to Jozi: 2Summers is a mostly Johannesburg-centric blog that I've been following, and thoroughly enjoying for a while now. In the blogger's own words here's a little more about 2Summers:

"My name is Heather Mason and I'm an American living in Jozi. ("Jozi" is the local slang term for Johannesburg. We also call it Joburg.)"I'm 38 years old. I moved to Jozi from Washington D.C. in August 2010, at the end of the American summer and the beginning of the South African summer. That's why I decided to call the blog 2Summers. I've just finished my third summer in South Africa so the name doesn't make that much sense anymore. It's too late to change it though."

Heather is passionate about Jo'burg. She has helped hold up the mirror to countless people so that they are able to see the city through other eyes, and have thus hopefully had the scales fall away from their eyeballs:

"I've developed a passion for Joburg that I've never felt for any other place. I love exploring this wacky city, which is unlike any other city in the world. I love walking Jozi's streets and discovering places that most lifelong Jozi-ites don't know about about. I love showing the world that despite its negative reputation, Joburg is a great place to live in and to visit. Surf around my blog for a while and you'll see what I mean."

In her most recent post, yesterday, she's got some more great photos of this great city, and makes some points about people's warped perceptions, which she writes is mostly rooted in ignorance:

"I try not to get upset when people refer to Johannesburg as "dangerous", or "dirty", or "ugly". Such attitudes do Joburg a huge disservice, but they usually come from a place of ignorance rather than malice. Most of the people who say these things probably haven't been into downtown Jozi for years, if ever. And they don't realize what they're missing.

"I suppose one could argue — in certain specific instances — that Joburg can be dangerous. One could even argue that some parts of Joburg are dirty. (Although most of the city is actually quite clean.)"But…ugly? Nope. Not ever."

I've always made a point of immersing myself in the places that I visit or live in; I believe in getting out on foot and with a camera, and to approach every minute as if I'm a tourist in my own life. Live in the now. Open your eyes.

I am determined that my heart should always be wide open to life.