Friday, January 24, 2014

Intimate, snapshots

Of the places, the colours, the angles - also the passions and passionates - of where we savour our daily coffee-inspiration moments.

I know that for me at least, and for the many people I observe on my rounds, that these are intimate spaces for personal and intimate  time alone, but are also social-alone moments.

These I highly recommend to people, also to my students, for both their sanity sake and self appreciation.

Time alone is highly underrated. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Amongst idlers and dawdlers, like myself

When the city bowl gets this unbearably hot at summer's height, there is nowhere better to cool off in, and relax, than in the Company Gardens, next to Parliament and just off the city centre.

I love days like today: when I thoroughly regret not having a pair of shorts with me; when I have not a single doubt as to the African essence, through the intense and heavy heat, of this most southern of the continent's cities.

There's not much to surpass the pleasure of people watching on a wooden bench beneath an ancient and verdant canopy.

Slipping into the gardens via a semi-secret and scorched lane - not surprisingly named Gallery Lane - and along an unpopular, less public side of the national art gallery, the most glaring and heat-ridden piece of my brisk stroll is the hurried dash across the gallery's lawn.

Then past all the garden crockery, statues from other ages cast in stone, and a 'sho't and rapid right' into one of the garden's top entrances.

Only then, in shade and surprising scents of the garden may I relax; it's the abrupt cool and instant hand-braking of my afternoon: I'm amongst my own now, idlers, dawdlers, people happy to pass their time 'unproductively' watching the world go by, also the seasons wonderfully-grindingly-slowl on their axis', reading barefoot in the shade, listening to squirrels' secret and acornic conversations.

But beware the endless stream of chancers and hustlers, the master dawdlers.

Johnny Clegg at Kirstenbosch Gardens

Sunday afternoon I spent on a blanket in the botanical gardens devouring tzatziki, dolmades and chicken drum sticks from Woolworths  and quaffing the finest sauvingon blanc amd chardonnay.

Those delightful and chilled wines, accompanied with chicken liver pate on soft white baguettes, went down singing hymns while one of this country's musical greats - the white Zulu - Johnny Clegg of, originally, Savuka fame, enthralled his vast audience in one of the world's great gardens: Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, now 101 years old.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Woodstock: An urban renaissance

I'm moving from the sedate and gentrified suburb of Newlands to the grittier and in-transition Woodstock at month-end.

I'll only be living 3.9 km from my new office - my media and journalism campus has thankfully moved from the ugly and depressing Bellville, about 22 km to the east of Cape Town, to Roeland Street just off the heart of Cape Town - and I expect to either walk, cycle or bus it between home and work, depending on the weather. And the wind.

I fetched my Giant mountain bike, which still looks brand new despite it being a gift from a lover way back in 2007, from my house 1800 km away in Waterval Boven in Mpumalanga province; I was there at the beginning of last week, which feels months ago.

I took the two pics from the living room of new apartment; they are of Woodstock, which lies between the railway line spine through the southern suburbs and the slopes of Table Mountain's Devil's Peak.

According to John Muir's 'Walking Cape Town' (2013), Woodstock is steeped in history:

"...this old suburb east of Cape Town was originally called Papendorp, after Pieter van Papendorp, a farmer who owned land between the Castle and Salt River.

"The name changed when the first Village Management Board in 1809 proposed the name New Brighton - after a local hotel. At a public meeting, a large group of fishermen who patronised the Woodstock Hotel outvoted the others and the neighbourhood acquired the name of the more popular inn.

"Dom Francisco de Almeida, the Portuguese Viceroy of India, was killed on Woodstock Beach on 1 March 1510 during a skirmish with the Khoikhoi. He was returning to his homeland from India. This event played a role in Portugal's decision not to colonise the Cape [I cannot even imagine how different things on this southern tip of Africa would have been if they had... a swarthy and Catholic Mediterranean influence, in every sense, as opposed to the conservative Dutch Calvinism and French Huegonot influences that gave birth to, among other things, the Afrikaans language and culture.]

Muir continues: He writes that "[t]he arrival of the railway in the early 1860s contributed to the development of the small suburb, and by 1881, it formed a separate municipality together with Salt River.

"Woodstock is undergoing an urban renaissance, and a number of buildings [like mine] have been restored or redeveloped, housing a range of creative enterprises from decor shops to art galleries to markets."

John Muir's handy and well illustrated book is available at most bookshops, including The Book Lounge (the wonderful independent bookshop two blocks away from me here in Roeland Street), CNA and Exclusive Books. I bought my copy for R185 at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens' shop. 'Walking Cape Town' is published by Struik Travel & Heritage.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Chakalaka Spice Route

The wine, the wooden roof deck, the cheesy chunk of moon, the lotus flower lit from its heart, the perfect aloneness with my thoughts, the unchartered year of 2014 beneath my bare and suntanned feet, the navy-charcoal sky.

The wine: "Spice Route's signature style has always been robust, wines, rich in character and certain to enhance every occasion.

"This blend of red varieatals represents a fusion of flavours, as does the unique, spicy South African relish from which Chakalaka takes its name… wine of origin Swartland"

The wine was a gift from my sister, as I left Johannesburg for the Cape - where most of SA's wine comes from - last Friday.

The bottle, empty, is in the recycling bin.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Dusk in peace decends

That's the view from the new apartment, which I should be moving into - in Woodstock, Cape Town - on around about the 27th of this month. I was there this morning, to make up my mind, finally.

Right now: A herd (hadedas most certainly don't flock together!) of hadeda's are bird-bleating in the ancient oak behind the house; there's an unusually soft and windless light above-and-around Devil's Peak as a large, almost full moon rises in the east… the shortening of summer's extraordinarily long days is already visible: my thoughts linger on "this mortal coil" that some of us warily tread, but not me.

I know it's perceived as terribly old fashioned, I really don't care, but in God I depend.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Coffee and red velvet cake

Dark clouds are gathering over Devil's Peak and there's a most welcome cool, almost chilly breeze after a scorching summer's day in Cape Town. Could it possibly rain?

I've just taken a stride through the suburb, which I expect to be leaving at month-end as I move into a place of my own.

I'm in Newlands village for coffee, red velvet cake and a belated attempt at my morning pages.

While tomorrow I'm happily back at work, I am looking forward to exploring this amazingly accessible city - unless you're banished to the Cape flats by povety and apartheid of course - on the mountain bike I brought from Johannesburg.

Saturday, January 11, 2014


I left home, Cape Town, on 14 December and have, since, travelled a few thousand kilometres, including a visit to my house in Waterval Boven.

This morning, at 6h00, I got into the hire car in Johannesburg and left the city for home. I drove into a bustling and windy Friday night Cape Town at 23h30 after a journey of 1467 kilometres - it's very good to be home.

After the head-on collision I was involved in I am jittery on the road, but grateful to be alive.

I'm also grateful that my month's holiday and travels are over: it's wonderful to be typing in my bed in the dark, listening to the wind against the roof and breathing in familiar smells.

The first photo I took in Fort Beaufort in the Karoo, while the second one was taken during a halt at a stop-and-go 60 km further along the N1, towards Touwsriver.

Good, good night.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014


I watch with curiosity, as my medication kicks in and grinds to a gradual halt my cogs and wheels, the invisible-but-visible layer of alcohol that transforms the inside othe sierry glass into tearful, rheumy old glass like the panes I so love in Grahamstown.

I'm back from a quick walk to the top of the block, and back.

I know these streets, now a lot more forested, intimately: I used to pound them incessantly in my high school days. Always the recluse, I used to do my road training for athletics at night. I loved the voyeuristic insights into the homes of lives along my routes. Also the scents of the blooms, an especial highlight was the cloying scent of the jasmine, always the first hint - early in July - of the soon to be coming spring. That scent sent a thrill though my mind, then body.

I have so much more to say.
But the meds dulls my senses, slurs my typing.

The walk, as always, did me good.
I received a tiny piece of perspective on the article I'm writing that was due today, but will not get there on time.
I'm on the tightrope, utterly distrustful of myself, of my words and thoughts, thoroughly insecure; every writer knows this excruciating point of a story.

The photo is of the village of Hogsback's main road; I took it exactly two weeks ago.