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,, 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 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.