Monday, February 24, 2014

Walking the sea edge

Cape of Storms: Bright colours, hearts, humans and white crested seahorses all thoughting about the gradually approaching autumn as summer fades and the sun heads northwards

The south-easter continues to thrust a voluptuous and angry bank of cloud over Table Mountain and in to the city bowl, and has done so for much of the weekend. 

The large roof-high window in my office looks directly at the mountain; I'm right in line with the cable car. That's why I've made a french -press full of scalding but aromatic coffee, so to watch this mesmerising sight from the stillness of my desk, while the wind buffets the building. 

Within a few months it's going to be the winter storms of slating rain that pummel my window, this western facade, seeking to seep every crevice and hairline crack. 

Not for nothing is this peninsula - that's thrust into the most southern ocean off the African continent - known as the cape of storms.

Muizenberg yesterday, as the cold front began to buffet the peninsula; from there I walked along the railway line to St. James’s, then past Danger Bay to Kalkbay where the day was ended quaffing good red wine in a secret park filled with children from the village

Yesterday, at the end of the day,  I walked between the ocean edge and the railway tracks from Muizenburg to St. James's, then past Danger Bay to one of my favourite villages, Kalkbay. There, with good friends, I ended the day quaffing quality red wine in a secret filled with children from, buzzing, the village.

One of those, um, 'pocket' shots you know you didn't take!

Living in Cape Town you are always negotiating the pincer of land that divides the two oceans; ruling the western seaboard is the Atlantic, the eastern seaboard is witness to the much warmer, heartier Indian. One bitterly cold, one wonderfully warmer; both with different reeks, moods and character traits. 

Nevertheless this peninsula is at the mercy of the tempestuous elements and the city can have utterly different weather simultaneously depending where you are. 

The rusted and battered ocean side of Muizenburg station in all its moodiness as the cloud bank fogged the peninsula

The city and its surrounds ooze myths and legends, which among others explain the weather; the version below has, um, a particular Cape Town slant to it:

As the story goes Jan van Hunks, a pirate in the early 18th century, retired from his eventful life at sea to live on the slopes of Devil’s Peak. He spent his days sitting on the mountain smoking weed on his pipe.
One day a stranger approached and asked to borrow some spliff. After a bit of bragging, a smoking contest ensued which lasted for days.
Van Hunks finally defeated the stoned stranger - who unfortunately turned out to be the devil - and they both vanished in a puff of cannabis smoke. Legend has it that the cloud of "tobacco" smoke they left became the "table-cloth" - the famous white cloud that spills over Table Mountain when the south-easter blows in summer.

The south-easter has been known to ravage and blight the peninsula for days on end.

The prevailing Spring and early Summer wind, the South-Easter (otherwise known as the "Cape Doctor") arises as a spin-off from anticyclones deep in the Southern ocean. It arrives at the peninsula by way of False Bay, its velocity often being given a boost by the "corner effect" round Cape Hangklip.

One arm of the South-Easter sweeps around the eastern flanks of Table Mountain, where its moisture, picked up from the ocean and the warm waters of False Bay, helps to keep the vegetation green through the heat of summer.
It is also a vital factor in the pollination of many plants, including the Silvertrees. The South-Easter continues on around Devil's Peak, before descending on the city.

There, it behaves somewhat in the manner of a trapped tiger, careering around in the bowl between mountain and sea. A couple of days of this is enough to purge the city's air - nowadays it is the smog instead of the plague of old which is banished. The South-Easter tends to overdo the cure, outstaying its welcome. A possible record was its performance in November 1936, when it howled without a break for 15 days, ravaging suburban gardens and penning the staff in the upper cable station for 5 days.

Today the city is spotless, not that you'd want to be on the streets to experience it first-hand.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Final round?

Yesterday I only got to write my morning pages in the afternoon.

I wrote them at The Blend coffee shop (don't you love the crockery?) in Roeland Street as the sun ducked and dived the glacier of fog that thankfully overwhelmed Cape Town. And that eventually turned to rain.

While there's an autumnal feel to the city this morning I've no doubt summer will strike back soon.

But there's also little doubt that summer is heaving and puffing in its corner, that it only has a round or two to go.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

For the record

The yellowed leaves both beneath and upon this tree, just outside the Western Cape Records and Archive in Roeland Street, once the old prison, are for me the very first and early signs of autumn in the Cape.

I'm looking forward to endless amounts of moisture in the form of rain, and red wine, before a flame-licked hearth.

And less sunshine please, enough is enough, and despite the cattle on our beaches it really is not healthy.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Home. New.

I have quickly learnt to love the wind; without it we would bake to a certain death in these the Cape's hottest summer months: i.e. now.

Sunday reached 40 degrees centigrade; Sunday night was hell: in the end I slept naked on the tiled floor, by the balcony sliding door, despite the noise from the streets, made by the rest of the city who were unable to sleep. If Hell did exist it would be without a breeze, with not a breath of air, not unlike Cape Town on Sunday night.

Which is why I welcome it when cloud pours over Table Mountain like it's doing today: it means the wind is howling in Woodstock, and much less so on this side of the city, where I work. Tonight I'll sleep peacefully.

Despite the wind, like today, which I now welcome and appreciate (even on my bike), I thrive on my bicycle rides to and from work.

It's the nuances of this rich and textured suburb that both intrigues and inspires me: it oozes history, culture, incredible architecture, also poverty and sleeze, and ever increasing pockets of rapidly merging creativity. Also never forget the colourful and fascinating community whose voices are being silenced by the persistent glacier-like creep of a gentrification process now approaching critical mass.

I am ecstatic to be living here, and to be doing so without a car.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Carving & scratching

The grain, the granules, the colours, shapes, hues and moods of the places and spaces where we choose to experience our coffee-inspiration moments.

Invaluable alone-time scratched and carved from the bedrock of busy days that would otherwise flow into each other (like identical beads on a necklace): no thanks.


And sometimes filled with the reek of toasted tomato and ground black pepper.

Also endless and meaningless noise.

Get the balance right: words from an 80's pop song.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Woodstock take#2

This morning it all looked different again, like it does every day. Every morning, as I wake, I rush to the window. Every single day is beautiful and different.
Every day I still pinch myself at the fact of my new life in this incredible and diverse city.
I'm sitting in a favourite coffee shop (Coffee Zone is a crap name, but this is the hipster-free one) quaffing an awesome cappuccino and waiting for my afternoon breakfast.
I can feel the exhaustion in my bones and muscles and tendons from my daily exercise regime: the cycling is very good for me, my body is trim and toned. But every now and then my body says, "Enough, I'm tired." And my backside grimaces every time I hit the saddle.
I'm actually ecstatic, much to my surprise, to be without a car. It's good for me, it's good.for my city, it's good for the environment. And as I've said before, the city is being exposed to me in the most unexpected ways.
I took that pic this morning while my coffee was brewing.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Chipping off shards of light

Every night as I cycle through Woodstock from the city to my new home, I notice that a piece of light has been chipped off the day; that they're getting, noticeably, shorter.

I'm not really sure how I feel about that though. Sometimes I'm ecstatic about the rain and moisture and moodiness that comes with winter.  On the other hand I remember that I'm on a bicycle or dependent on public transport; so its just that it's the unknown and I'm not yet sure how it's all going to work out.

I love my journeys across the city, I love being on my bicycle: Almost every time I take a different route and open myself to the city opening itself up to me. The layers are peeled off.

I'm exposed to a real city, not the tip of the iceberg of perfect places that have been airbrushed for travel magazines, websites and glossy brochures, the Cape Town that is pimped to the rest of the world.

It's this gritty, real city that I'm growing to love and appreciate.

The photo, taken from my balcony, is of the corner of Table Mountain and Lion's Head to its right; the sun has set into the Atlantic and Woodstock has begun to be lit up.