Saturday, July 26, 2014

People are living there

Hurrying home down Greatmore street, just ahead of the grimreaper-like cold front from Antarctica - it's ripping and shredding at my soul - a friendly man on aluminium crutches, also in haste ahead of the impending storm, clicks even quicker past and shouts hello (where's he sleeping tonight?).

Hungry but keen men and adolescents wearing fezzes scurry to a mosque in Ramadan's last days as an olive-skinned and curly-headed boy, most probably not called Oliver, says "please sir, can I have money for bread"; as the first slaps of water fall.

Woodstock, Cape Town.

Threadbare but kind

Oh streets of Woodstock how I have warmed towards you all, despite my initial fears and consternation.

And how your streets have warmed to me, in return: your homeless, gap-toothed, threadbared and down-to-earth are all kind, after wary.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Muizenburg blues (and pinks)

I'm drinking, unusually, a big cup of strong, sweet tea that's covered with a posey of roses, its matching teapot too, which to my eyes is quite victorian style, or for a - um, slightly - more modern context 'Biggy Best'. 

I'm relieved, too, that Table Mountain is again bathed in gorgeous sunshine at the end of a grey-ugly and limp day; just as the icky 'Sunday afternoon blues' (something I've not suffered from since a child) was just beginning to nibble at my toes. 

It's already a week later that I'm musing over my short two-night stay in Muizenburg.

I'm sitting at my usual table, the one at the window: If I look right, which is northwards, it's a mere 5 km to Sea Point, which is on the Atlantic seaboard, and a good pace for coffee or ice cream, but is still part of this world. 

While to my left, or southwards, it's only 26 km to Muizenburg beach, which is on the Indian ocean. But another world:  When I was there, Woodstock and Cape Town felt far away. Very far away. The fact that people there are very different to the city folk thirty minutes away, also exacerbates the sense of farawayness. It felt like another province, sometimes even another country.

That first afternoon I walked four or so kilometres further to quaint and even more otherworldly Kalk Bay. There I sat, it felt, in the very ocean itself as the high tide buffeted the Brass Bell as I looked back at Muizenburg, also the at snow-capped Hottentot's Holland mountains on the far side of False bay. Exceptr for not having a car, I'm dead keen to again explore that southern, more remote coastline. 

Although still early, it felt like dusk; the winter sun disapears behind the mountain and into Noordhoek and Hout Bay from 14h00 in some places. I shuddered at the thought of the cold afternoon homes with magnificent vierws, and their sunrises are mind blowing.

The distance from the city, and being amongst less hurried and seemingly much more creative folk, many barefoot, sun browned with sea bleached hair - these are people obviously in touch with the Ocean, its tides and rhythms - somehow stimulated my overall contentment hand-in hand with an of my own creativity, and contemplation; I'd certainly not given thought to my mortality for a while. 

I'm getting up now to close the windows; the sun is setting behind The Mountain and behind it, into the deepest, furtherest Atlantic, and with that the temperature plummets. It's right now that, if I had a car, I'd take a drive into the sunset and to catch a beer, or a glass or two of red at a friendly place along the coast that's hesitatingly relinquishing the weekend. Instead I'll stay put; and tomorrow's back to school.

After the Brass Bell I chose the coastal path between the busy railway track and the ion-laden ocean spray back to Muizenburg. Even though it was high tide and the chances of getting dumped on by icy seawater were good - rather a scintillating collision with the elements than the busy, loud and polluted narrow peak-hour road.

Everything was bathed in pastel pinks, which made me even happier that I wasn't returning to the city, that both the evening and the next day were mine to sqaunder in any way that I might choose. In that moment I understood that I was exactly in my life where I wanted to be: after years of working, mostly, as a freelance journalist under enormous stresses and pressure, chasing the buck, I was now in a space where the buck didn't mean that much to me any longer. Instead, now, time alone on the beach, or having coffee with people I love, time to lie in the sun reading a book is priceless. 

Even at this late hour, despite the cold, there were people about and surfers in the ocean; I was alone, but didn't feel alone. Ironically, after my contemplations around my mortality and that I was vibrating with life, I knew I had no fear of death.

Then looking back over the way I'd come, also conscious of weary leg muscles, I looked ever more forward to lighting a fire in the old but perfectly preserved Edwardian hearth that's an arm's length from the bookshelf. 

There were some good old friends on the shelf, not to mention human ones in the house I had retreated to, and the bottle of Porcupine Ridge shiraz I'd managed to get, along with an as yet unknown merlot at the tiny liquor store in Kalk Bay. 

Clink! To roaring fires, winter bedding and to fluffy and preening cats... .

Right now, as I type these words, lights are coming on across Woodstock, as is the call to prayer from the local mosque, and the evening wind is picking up. Even though, against my better judgement, I foolishly allowed myself, this weekend, to get caught up in the swirl of negativity that is most of the world's news. With my heart going out to the the civilians in Gaza and the family and friends of the victims of the downed Air Malaysia flight, I've now corrected my balance by reachiing into the divine.

To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasise in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.

"And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

- Howard Zinn


Friday, July 18, 2014

Word tsunamis

From 'Truth or Dare':

All day he'd watched swathes of rain lash the city. Hardly moving, except to piss, from his glass writing table (bought a tad wonderfully-used in Lower Main Road a block in front), he'd watched The Mountain magically disappear and reappear like a dove or rabbit into the all-encompassing pigeon-coloured velvet.

Now the sun shone, again; he knew it would be brief and he was glad for that. He thrived on this sun-banishing passionate moodiness; for him living on this exclamation mark protruded into the southern ocean, all that separated the teat of the continent from Antarctica, was a romantic and adventurous space during the winter. One that sparked and flared his roaring creativity, not to mention sexuality, even more intensely.

As his holiday petered out, but with no intention of breaking more brolly spines against the weather, he'd risen late, not without guilt, and had then read hunched beneath the duvet as the rain born on squalls from the north thrashed his perspiring, tearful bedroom window.

Only once his creaking bladder and desire for caffeine had uncomfortably met at the crossroads did he get up, slip more layers on, and with a french press thick with brooding dark and full-bodied Italian flavour did he sit at his table and begin his pages.

He spent the day, between bursts of dishes and sweeping and food, writing a letter to an intimate friend of 19 years:

'To my darling and invaluable friend

'Thanks for sending me your letters to your brother. I've just read them...

'I do love your writing; you are undoubtedly a writer and a marvelously talented one at that. And superbly intelligent.

'Also, as I have learnt over the last few days of our time together and from the pages of your letter, and quite to my surprise, you are of extremely low self esteem.

'At the same time I have also learnt that you NEED to write, to create ART.

'I read your letter to Seb and I'm surprised at my hatred for him. It's exactly when my hatred overwhelms me that I have to step back and objectivise myself again - probably my journalistic instinct kicking in?

'(I have previously often written my hatred out and then - immediately - pushed 'send'. But I have taught myself not to though: the last time I did so was in 1998; that was the time I fully understood for the first time the damage, the destruction, the hurt that my furious words are capable of.)

'In my own life I have learnt that the writing of these letters of passion should most definitely be written, but that they shouldn't necessarily be sent and then received by the intended recipient. The reason for that (and again I emphasise that these are lessons relevant to my life experience) is that these letters are undoubtedly about me, the writer, and not about the recipient. The letters are my therapy, my rage, and are written for the changing of me... because I am only responsible for me and my changing, my growth and development, for my EVOLUTION. Not for the changing of the other... .

'I realised that I had always believed that it was within my jurisdiction to impact and thus - rather arrogantly I suppose - change that person, the OTHER, into something that I am comfortable with, i.e. sanding down their rough edges, their prickles, for my comfortability. This, I discovered via my tsunamis of words, was essentially the ego, mine, in operation. My ego inflamed their ego, theirs in return inflamed mine further and the cycle continued into what would become another world war, which incidentally is probably exactly how the first two were started.

'I believe that our letters of this nature should be about our own healing and then growth, the freeing of ourselves via the healing of bitterness and hatred. And forgiveness...the forgiveness of the other for what I PERCEIVE to be their faults.'

He'd write, get up briefly, walk around the table at centre, or stand staring from the wall-window at The Mountain or the city, scratch his chin or rasp his beard before sitting down again on the comfortable chair. And continued writing.

By the time he'd finished with words, albeit against his will, and had to respond to his stomach's growls, The Mountain had again been obliterated and dusk was faded to black. The lights immediately below and on the lower slopes were sparkling in the inky dark.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014


Like the acorn and the winged seed, I am still and hibernating; but the sunlight in the south is more by the day.

Although I rest, I also stretch...and ever downwards, beneath my ground, the roots, my roots, slowly slither, strengthen and seek.

Because I have chosen experiences over possessions, that which I do albeit temporarily keep in the home, not only reflect the stillness, peace and transience of Nature, but also symbolise the Beautiful Love I am surrounded with. On every level.

Never forget i the temporaryness of this life ... and the eternity of my life.