Monday, November 30, 2015

Blur urbane


When it's hot and humid like this the first sign of my body's reaction is the slime of sweat between my bottom lip and just above the stubbled cleft hacked into my chin.

Here, in the shop window, like a trapped fly, I started a blog post. Didn't save. Lost it. Must be disciplined and start again. Must write, or die. Die in the throes of my self-inflicted complacency, remain then, there, for the rest of my life, the living fucking dead. This very thought turns my stomach, revolts me. 

Sometimes, only sometimes, I experience guilt about the money I spend on food when I'm out. I remind myself that's it's my one great pleasure, passion. I hardly spend on alcohol and never on drugs. And it's my best friend; I spend a lot of time alone in coffee shops and restaurants. Hello Sailor, Observatory, I love this place. 

Guilt? Yes. Why don't you try and live, without conscience, in one of earth's most unequal societies. I am privileged. It's obvious: I'm white. My every step taken in my skin (you can try get out of yours) is a blatant advertisement of my privilege. I had to do nothing but be conceived and born to wear this mantle.

I especially love Observatory on this busy Sunday night after a hellish day while sweltering alone in my apartment.  Now I'm sweltering here in the alone window seat right in and against the window on Lower Main street. Here I'm comforted by the steady stream of mostly unpretentious and artistic-leaning life. Unlike swathes of uptight central Cape Town. 

Alone but not alone at all. So grateful for the inconspicuous, anonymous company. Thronging with life.

Four middle aged gay guys at a table outside; three of them just arrived on bicycles. One of the cyclists with an intricate tattoo splayed across his slender calf is bearded, blonde and I don't think from here. Maybe staying at a backpackers? The fourth, bearded and bald, was also scribbling at a table in the window table opposite mine; his is a full black beard sprayed with silver beneath a friendly, open face and intelligent black eyes. 

Two Dutch girls, beautiful and sun tanned, smoking, sit outside on the smoker's bench on the pavement. They're enthralled by a smooth-talking and handsome black man also, judging by his features, not from here. Their body language is fascinating to observe. 

Feels like the summer holidays, which numbs SA, started tonight. It's a sexually-charged night, not for me. A toad-like older man tortoises past just two steps behind his tall slender-legged and proud model-like partner: I've seen the combo way too often not to know she's a prostitute. He's a wealthy-on-the-appalling-exchange-rate foreigner, Greek or Italian, maybe Croat. I crinkle my nose at the thought of him on top of her later, as I attempt to put myself in her shoes. 

This section of the street is, as always, literally a red light district because it's tinged by the surreal bright blood neon hue of the Stones' signage. It's the pool bar that spreads across the entire top floor of this chocolate box of an Edwardian building at the top end of the street. 

I often end up here drunk. Or to get drunk and temporarily wash away my stresses. Ihe only one upright on a bar stool Unlike the many asses mostly bent over green baize, white and coloured billiard balls, I'm the only one upright on a bar stool, not playing. This while cheap diesel-like brandy and vodka with coke is pedaled to, among others, the beautiful but threadbare youths, students, junior lecturers. 

Plump green olives, poison-green pesto, hummus like thick paint, flat white bread, a side order of grilled veg, a glass of chilled chardonnay. Should've worn shorts but I didn't; it's damn hard to predict the weather from my crow's nest, especially when it's wind battered. 

Some nights are a happy blur.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Playground ants and cracks


A peaceful Sunday. I've much marking to do. At five I'm going to Nic and Mike for dinner. With wine. In their construction site of a house; they've been renovating for as long as I've wonderfully known them.

No music playing, my flat is silent. I'm alone with myself and the low-level shred and tear of the wind as it grows in forcefulness; judging by the hefty table cloth being thrown over Table Mountain it's most likely to develop into a full-force south-easter before long. I care not.

A distant siren, a not so distant train hurtling past in a low shriek-and-swoosh of sound. Many distant voices on the street; African voices in languages I don't recognise, Central African voices I'm sure. Also taxi hooters and, specifically, horns. Traffic sounds too. But distant and welcome. I'm alone but not lonely in a multicultural community that is, mostly, at rest today.

There're four vehicles in various stages of dilapidation with their hoods up and in a shaky line on the pavement alongside but not part of a (closed on Sunday) second-hand car dealership. They, and a group of smiling, talkative men are overseen by a socialising mechanic: a gleaming ebony skin and bulging biceps, baggy oil-smeared grey pants and a faded blue but sleeveless T-shirt.

This regular gathering takes place just off Lower Main. It's in direct line of sight of my reading and mountain-viewing chair at my floor to ceiling window. It's a vast flatscreen TV on my immediate world that, as it's central structure (of my life too) has the ever-changing flat-topped granite seventh natural wonder of the world. This phase of my life, in stark contrast to that which lies before it, is - relatively speaking of course - epitomised by solidity.

There's also clumps of sedate and well-dressed family members, all black, heading off to the ample churches in the mix-match of buildings along both Main and Lower Main streets that, like two fat and juicy veins, run parallel through Woodstock and Salt River, never joining. Bibled and with gleaming shoes they stroll confidently pious towards worldly destinations but with their eyes set on  heaven, wherever the hell that might be.

I feel like a cool and disinterested god watching erratic ants on a playground-sized slab of cracked cement.

As we've all had driven home the last few months, weeks, nothing's solid; heaven's in the now. Right now. Neither past nor future counts for anything.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Teary-eyed and toxic

Rain-spattered glass as I spend my day of rest between reading in bed, now writing in the bath. Both steeped in strong Arabica coffee and dunked with rusks, interspersed with buttered toast, two soft-boiled eggs.

Was at a wedding yesterday, Caledon, the service held in a forest. Cool. Very. Except it was a forest of toxic black wattle, exotic extraordinaire, pollinating us with mustard flowers plops instead of rain, although was threatening. As is everything else. Threatening.

A shallow and pure-white wedding completely out of touch with the reality of living in this touchstone country with its raw and bleeding nerve ends. No thought to inequality and #feesmustfall and hunger-bloated bellies as they married in the toxic forest isolated from reality: superficial and skin deep, sermon jokes about one or two holiday homes (what is your family's is now my family's), a Landrover in the drive, brats and lives most likely to re-perpetuate unsustaining white privilege. But I've no doubt they're in love, blessed them nonetheless. 

Then, just before the cloying reception, we snuck away for dinner in Stellenbosch. Me to make notes about my conflicting self as the other and outsider-observer, who'll most likely end up, happily though, living and thirsting on a desert's knife edge far from the broiling sea of my failed species.

Neither cynical nor without hope I'm currently sloughing another life-skin as I painfully grow into a new life role that I'm loathe as yet to percolate into public words, here.

On the note of aloneness, not loneliness, I'd be happy to walk next to someone for the next while, even though I may be blind with teary-eyedness.

Hope is a thing with feathers.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Do you mind spit on your filter?


I scuttle home from the bus stop clutching my freshly printed  copy of 'What Fanon said', past the scantily dressed, spider-legged prostitutes on lower main. Greeting them in my head I cluck-cluck-mother them into warmer clothing. And home. Please, it's cold. Also in my head. And shower them in prayers.
The gentrification trees recently planted, only, in front of the Old Biscuit Mill and it's Saturday neighbourhood goods market, where the neighbours actually aren't welcome, are in full bright leaf. Even in the dark. 
I kick at the litter and stones and think that just the other day these feet were shoeing their way though Oxford, Hampstead Heath, Gdansk. Not that I'm discontent.
In the heart of the city of spires I met a guy under the bridge of sighs, my first words to him were 'how fucking romantic'. His name was Turner. Although a student, he wasn't from there. Los Angeles. We shared some Rothmans, I coughed but enjoyed. I liked his glasses and fingered his, long, hair.
Autumn in the north ('the trees are in their autumn beauty, the woodland paths are dry'), spring here in the south. I'm again straddled between two worlds.
Now, I sit in silence with the city and mountain in darkness at my back contemplating tomorrow's public holiday and a chapter's corrections to complete. On deadline. Tight. 
My heart's transplanted itself elsewhere... change is coming, fast. Straddled between two worlds, leaning keenly, strongly northwards.
Oxford.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

To the lighthouse

Slangkop lighthouse is, maybe, 1000m away down a pebble and wild flower strewn coastal path just below a tumultuous and elephant grey winter's sky. At last the winter rains are slashing Cape Town and the Peninsula. Not for nothing is it known as the Cape of storms.
My joie de vivre, my creativity and inspiration, my desire to live even more intensely, and other passions, surge in this weather, which should - plus minus - hold until late November. Not for nothing is it also known as the Cape of good hope.
Kommetjie. The Lighthouse pub and grill. My notebook open on the table. Heading from here, in the mist and rain, to Cape Point, Simonstown, then to Kalk Bay for dinner with good wine from the Cape's finest vineyards.
Life's too short, I'll sleep when I'm dead, I heard him mutter.
Castle Milk Stout, which is apparently excellent for lactating women. A meal on its own: puts to shame the grilled squid heads and calamari strips, the local mussels. And the company of my sister.
Now on to Scarborough.
I salute Virginia Wolf. And,  for the hell of it, James Joyce.
Ulysses.
And, for that matter, the portrait of a young man as an artist.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Winter night's content


Arrived early for a book launch (Memory Against Forgetting), of a collection of photographs ("a photographic journey through both sides of South Africa’s history"), at The District Six Museum in Buitenkant street.

Photographer Ranjith Kally joined Jim Bailey's
iconic Drum Magazine in 1956
I'm the second person to arrive, the photographer (Ranjith Kally), in his nineties, sits quietly in the front row with an intriguing copper walking stick. He's immaculately dressed and his solid black shoes are polished.

It's the first time, surprisingly, that I've been here; I savour the smell of old wood and old building and I'm grateful to be visiting and ecstatic to have made the effort to leave the flat despite the moodiness and early arrival of the winter night.

I lift my glass of Leopard's Leap Sauvignon Blanc to the artist, also to my creative, artistic city that for centuries was - mostly - known as the tavern of the seas. I also raise it to the ghosts fluttering amongst us... the marvelous space is filling up.

The shame; lest we South Africans ever forget! This old sign is on a wall at the
District Six Museum: "By Order Provincial Secretary".
The book's apt title was inspired by Czech writer, Milan Kundera, who wrote in his The Book of Laughter and Forgetting that “the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting”.

A ('my brillaint career') lifetime of 5 days



I'm hungry, but not enough to attempt a meal from the meagre provisions in my cupboards. They are, almost, bare. I'm also not yet hungry enough to shower, dress and leave the apartment so as to negotiate Sunday people, aisles. 

Birdsong. Of a single bird. Through the bathroom window. Made more lucid, clear and piercingly straight into the heart-of-my-mind because of the winter morning cold. Also because birds and birdsong, except for seagulls and pigeons, are a rarity in Woodstock. As are trees. I push my pause button to listen and savour. Turns out it's a starling. That it's shat all over the passageway; not a bad price to pay I say.

I regularly starve myself. Yet I'm never without good food 'events' (I call them) and my life has always been like that. Not unlike the Khoi San, the original folk of this blood-soaked land, who I allowed to wonderfully colonise my young mind (mostly via the white lies of the so-called 'white bushman' Laurens van der Post, whose books enthralled me. Soo much so that I did a mecca to his southern Free State Philippolis home over a decade ago), I happily feast when the harvest is good, then starve and appropriately shrink in lean times.



I'm wearing his made-in-Sweden long johns (Storlek L / Bambu 93%). They're black and tight with a green thread where it counts. My long and slender deer legs (yeah, yeah, that's what I said whe they were called that) look tight and good in these. I'm also wearing his black long-sleeve shirt (large) - because the winter thrashed in on Thursday, cold and rain, all good. I found it, crumpled, behind the couch not long after he hugged me hard, long before bending into the cab at 06h19 on Tuesday morning to leave for the airport. And on to the summery Scandinavian far north, via Joburg, Addis.

Even before nuzzling my nose into its armpits, desperate for his smell, and with my nerve-ends raw and jangling from the departure (two root balls rapidly, tightly grown into each other, in just 5-days, then against all nature being torn apart), I smelt the aromatic fire smoke woven into and around the finely-woven black thread count.

Happy May Day long weekend: At the last possible minute on that Saturday we took a hire car on a road trip around the peninsula, via Chapman's. It was only on approaching Scarborough, at the end of a sunny and warm winter's afternoon as the ozone-heavy sea mist whispered up the ragged-tooth landmass that we saw The Moon. Jaw droppingly full in the dusk-sky / falling even more in love, in the surreal life-light / eerily in contrast to the icy, plankton-rich Atlantic.  

Following it slowly from there, along the deserted countryside roads that remind me of elsewhere, anything but what I would expect this African fang thrust sharply into the ocean, pointing to Antarctica, to look like. Un-wild. Bathed in moon wash is how we wound our way to Kalk Bay.

Fate thank you for the perfectly only available two-seater - by the log fire - of the bustling Cape to Cuba restaurant. There we hatched more plans for the night while thriving on the shine in each other's eyes as the world, nay universe, immaculately and purely distilled into a single shining drop that contained just the two of us, two comfy chairs, a table and checked cloth, a fire, Viking eyes and accent. That is why the fire reek in the black fibres packed a powerful punch to the solar plexus.

Copyright: Salmon Becker

Did I say I'm hungry?

This very morning my digital friend (we've not 'met' yet), Salmon, sent me two photos he'd taken some 144 km away, where he lives just off the Southern Cape coast.The vineyard of rust-coloured autumn leaves is an imprint of my soul's colour this week and today.

Earlier, scrunched in bed, was reading WG Sebald in Granta 68 - 'In Vienna I visited none of the sights and spoke not a word to a soul' - and I knew that those words matched Salmon's photos soul-encapsulating photos.

In a mere 5 days geographical boundaries (read limitations) disappeared for me; I'm one of the freest people I know, I am a citizen of 'the world', from my glass writing table on the world I can, I do create my realities. I am shaken freer now post this Richter-rich life quake. Shaken but intact / inextricably and wonderfully altered / never again the same / a sharp sliver of my heart-and-soul glides-and-dips-and-soars over Stockholm's waterways and islands and the Laplands to its north.

The dehydrated purple condom I found only last night, the black shirt I'm wearing (a white fleck of dried toothpaste, his or mine, on its left shoulder) hid it, held it tight. It's not all I have left.

Skin-on-skin. Mind-on-mind. Soul-intertwined-with-soul.

My beard's 5 days old now; in the cleft on my chin I notice that there's more grey: once I was Peter Pan, now I admire the spider leg-thick hairs and savour even more my life progression. Most idiots call it an ageing process. Vehemently I disagree. Instead, I savour my living process... and if those 5-days are nothing more than a crack-and-a-bang on my Richter scale, I'm then again aware of how deeply and passionately and in-the-moment I am capable of living. I am un-complacent.

Skin-on-skin. Mind-on-mind. Soul-intertwined-with-soul.

Life seasons: some call it an ageing process, I call it the living process.
I am not dying... ever. None of us are. Copyright: Salmon Becker


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Winter of my content


The merry seagulls with their birdseye view; The Mountain disappeared into a woolly mammoth; longing for coffee and, today, to be in foreign places far away, perhaps to the north but no problem with the south.

Sounds like anywhere doesn't it. East or west too; the longing for noses and faces and hair and hues I don't know. Food and voices too. Colours of eye that look me back to Vikings and Celts and boglands of green and below elephant-grey.

Low-slung with pregnant primeval skies.

All of this from my glass table on the world, the workshop where the dream cells are impregnated with desperate spunks at shutterspeed.

The days are short; the light is less, the sun's infused with milk; the kids in the streets below wear jerseys, are much quieter much earlier.

I pull the duvet much closer now, pad me in and around, probably have to get a blanket now that this winter sees I'm alone. Alone, but looking forward to to a winter-long healing of hibernation.

Last night the first cheery log fire of my winter-content. In a, quiet, restaurant as I dined and wined and read and wrote alone far from the crowd.

Tonight, despite the deepening gloom, quite welcome, my mind's to anonymous company at a bar, where I can pretend to not be my mind. A mind made fuzzy and freiendly with wine.

Friday, April 17, 2015

And I said to myself... what a

Was working from home when load shedding (i.e. the electricity across a large swathe of the city was turned off; long story) hit at 12pm; put on shorts, lightened my backpack (i.e removed all work-related stuff,  like laptops etc.) packed a novel, three boiled eggs and jumped on to a train to Simonstown (one of the last outposts of the British empire despite colonial statues falling at a rate of knots in South Africa). 

Right now: Quaffing white wine and devouring fresh and sumptuous  West Coast mussels (post red tide, that is) and wish you were here. 

Happy sunny Friday autumnal afternoon in a beautiful world (when you squint your eyes a bit and block your ears).

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Litres and kilograms of words


The Mountain again. In my face. Rock solid. As I think about the week behind me.

Monday, unexpectedly, this plate-sized flower stared me down from a shrub disconcertingly taller than me. 

I was in a hurry like all the other scurrying city roaches. 

So off-guard I was and looking inwards that it surprised me straight back into The Present; I stopped to smell the roses. 

Those 30 in-the-moment seconds have stood me in good stead right up until now.
I've drawn upon that instance and have smiled satisfyingly about it, at least 15 times already. 

On Tuesday, I wore a jersey for the first time since getting back from Prague in early November, but took it off later. 

In my day-long to-ing and fro-ing, I breathed in deeply wood smoke from only one homely hearth.

That November weekend there was much more rain in Cape Town than there had been for a whole week in wintry Europe. 

Log fires were still burning in my favourite city bowl restaurants and coffee shops as I hesitantly came down from the dizzy high of my travels, and work. 

It was the beginning of summer.

Yesterday I wore a jersey for the entire day. And in my meanderings there was much more aromatic wood smoke from homely hearths to gulp in deeply.


Best of all, the moody day began with the slashing of rain against the windows.

As the seasons clash-and-shift-and-argue I hunker down and gratefully cocoon into my heart of hearts, as litres-and-kilograms-of-words wash-over-and-through me.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Moody blue and running over


Beautiful Monday night that feels like a Sunday, but thank goodness it's not. 

Just in the door, as usual I'm smacked hard by the view (of Lion's Head and Cape Town city centre in the far distance) that, this time, I can see from my bedroom window that snatches my mobile from my back pocket, thrusts open the aluminium window and - please, please don't drop it, it's only six floors down to splinters - and then shutter-clicks away while holding my hand as steady as possible against a feisty breeze reeking of the Atlantic (a favourite reek, mind you) that makes it difficult, very.

Tomorrow back to work. It's been an awesome week off, in terms of both productivity and ample rest. Lots of both. Lots, too, of hardly leaving my apartment, of reading books and drinking wine, listening to music live-streamed from all over the planet, making decisions about sex and friends, showering not so often, of also soaking for hours and deep in the bath, time alone and naked. 

Except for last weekend when I made it up a short drive up the West Coast with friends to Jakob's Baai, again reading, wine and braaing, soaking in the bath, collecting shells, taking pics, grateful to be at the ocean's edge with a notebook and pen. Conversation and laughter with people I love who love me enough to give me my space and I in return theirs.

Today late morning the bug hit me and the isolation got to me, a tad; tired, slightly, of my own company and the same view of the hollow walls of my mind. A late-autumn day. Felt restless to leave and walk the streets of the city, but to do so quietly and calmly. Also, soon the rain and grey and cold - please hurry - will be coming and I'll most likely look back, slightly longingly at times, on these days.

Easter Monday but a Sunday: Inside of me I'm at peace and in quiet, still and centered. Something changed in me this long weekend. A demure day, low-energy and in-between the seasons, much closer now to winter than the summer we've almost left behind. Even the city and it's people are low-energy, transitioning from the fast-paced and long days of summer into a hand-braked hibernation.

Today I loved and danced around my apartment to 'A time for Us' (from "Romeo and Juliet") by Nino Rota and 'Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini'. This week I'm reading The Guardian UK, Elizabeth Hawes' 'Camus, A Romance' and Patrick Leigh Fermor's 'A Time of Gifts'.

Now to bed with both books and up at 05h30 and into my work routine. 

I'm happy, I'm rested, I'm content and enormously grateful for my simple and streamlined life. I feel rich, extremely. My cup is running over.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Clickety-click


Yesterday, just before the noon-day gun and despite my claustrophobia, I took a walk around the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock. At most it's 200 metres from where I live.






Saturday, March 21, 2015

Cali-forni-cation


'Gentrinaaiers': Graffiti that I first noticed had been appearing on buildings and walls around the Old Biscuit Mill from earlier in the year. I walk this route daily from the bus stop, or after taking a minibus taxi. I keep looking later to see whether they're disappeared in time for the cash cow visitors flocking into the area for their weekly safari, who are definitely not here to notice nor give a damn about how the other side lives.
A 'direct' translation, I guess, of gentrinaaiers would be 'gentri-fuckers', which is both a clever and powerful play on gentrifiers
It fascinates me that the graffiti (above) is in the official logo colours of World Design Capital Cape Town 2014. This makes a statement about who exactly did benefit from the millions of rands pumped into WDCC2014. 
Then, the cockroach. And the barbed wire. In the stencilled graffiti.
I had no doubt that the graffiti was by the anonymous tokolos-stencils, which I first read about in the Mail & Guardian's Tokolos Stencil Collective: 'Crap' art designed to unsettle article from last year November. Then I found their Tumblr blog, which features photos of their graffiti at Salt River Circle and at the Old Biscuit Mill in Lower Main road, Woodstock. There I found explanations: 
"Aluta Continua... The Struggle did not end in 1994. The fight against gentrification is but one aspect of the struggle for a different world." http://tokolosstencils.tumblr.com/
And...
"On Tuesday evening, some TOKOLOSNAAIERS took a trip around the back-alleys of the Woodstock Improvement District. They discovered a community that was no longer a community as its residents of decades have been displaced by the winds of change. In its place, are the well-to-do who go to and from their work, spend money at overpriced restaurants but do not know their neighbours as they, unlike their predecessors, are too afraid to sit on the stoop. This landed gentry have been aided and abetted by what can only be described as gentrinaaiers - property developers, real estate agents, restaurant entrepreneurs, hipster creatives, and of course, the Old Biscuit Mill.The GENTRINAAIERS of Woodstock is an unstoppable tsunami of urban renewal destroying any semblance of vibrancy and authenticity in its path - unstoppable that is unless the community fights back." - From a February 12, 2015 post on their website. 
It's also possible to download many of their stencils.
[He knows that the very fact he’s got a birds eye view of lower Woodstock means he’s part of the gentrification process. That because he’s been without a car - by choice - for 13 months now and is wonderfully on foot, he’s come to largely empathise with the folk living these streets, for decades now, who really have nowhere else to go as they are increasingly pressured out.]
[On foot: the blood, the piss, the shit, the whores and drugs on the streets. Also the beauty, kindness and compassion of strangers, many of whose tooth-gapped smiles brighten his day and melt his heart.]
Empathy = the ability to put oneself in others’ shoes. If they have shoes.

Bromwell street, which runs behind the Old Biscuit Mill.


On another note, not completely unrelated, yesterday I began reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life. In the introduction, she wrote about her father, also a writer, and about an article he wrote before he died of brain cancer:

"Then a strange thing happened. My father wrote an article for a magazine, called "A Lousy Place to Raise Kids," and it was about Marin County and specifically the community where we lived, which is as beautiful a place as one can imagine. Yet the people on our peninsula were second only to the Native Americans in the slums of Oakland in the rate of alcoholism, and the drug abuse among teenagers was, as my father wrote, soul chilling, and there was rampant divorce and mental breakdown and wayward sexual behavior. My father wrote disparagingly about the men in the community, their values and materialistic frenzy, and about their wives, "these estimable women, the wives of doctors, architects, and lawyers, in tennis dresses and cotton frocks, tanned and well preserved, wandering the aisles of our supermarkets with glints of madness in their eyes." No one in our town came off looking great. "This is the great tragedy of California," he wrote in the last paragraph, "for a life oriented to leisure is in the end a life oriented to death—the greatest leisure of all."


Glints of madness: Inside of the very high walls surrounding, not unlike a prison, the Old Biscuit Mill this morning.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Safari time


Peace and calm in my apartment as the coffee percolates and my orchid exuberantly flowers as if it’s spring; down below in Woodstock the streets are rowdy as the seagulls squawk. Tomorrow I'll watch as the gentrifiers flock from early to the Old Biscuit Mill and environs to spend their rands, dollars, euros in a frenzy not unlike the seagulls' feeding frenzy. This will take place while the mostly down-at-heel locals look on in 'wonder' and 'awe' at these colonising strangers from seemingly much more glamorous parts of the city. Life is changing for many down below. As for me, I'm sitting uncomfortably on a spiky fence, but tending to fall over and in with the locals. In the meantime I need to read more about gentrification in other parts of the world. 

It’s a beautiful day. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sometimes...

There, in the dove-grey nothingness is where you would normally find a handsome flank of Devil's Peak.

Sometimes, in the summer, but not that often, The Mountain disappears from view. Those are, mostly, my favourite days. It's not that I exist in a space of nothing but adoration for Table Mountain, but if I can't see it from my writing table, it most likely means that it's a moody, moisture-filled day, which the Cape winter is famous for. On those days I thrive. 

The Cape winter is no longer that far away. For that, I'm enormously grateful: Among other things I've stocked up on a pile of new and secondhand books, and some hearty soups, and I've recycled a laptop that is going to make it much easier for me to get enormous amounts of work, and studying, done at home. That will be while dramatic swathes of the winter storms march across my large-screen and in-my-face view over Woodstock, with Cape Town's city bowl not too far away to my right.

I woke to a post by a favourite blogger of mine: Marie Viljoen of 66 Square Feet (Plus) New York: One Woman, One Terrace, Twelve Seasons fame. Marie's a Capetonian living in New York with her husband, whom she calls The Frenchman. The post was about flying over Africa and into Cape Town, posted on Tuesday. Not that I'm going to meet her or anything (that'll come I sincerely hope), but I'm very excited that she's here on the peninsula, that she's close-by. Her blog inspires me daily, I've also learnt an enormous amount about blogging from her; among other things, her writing style and photography do it for me.

I've often used her and her blog as an example in the online journalism classes I teach at the university, the most recent example was her alternative take - the message in the flames - on the terrible fires that ravaged the Cape peninsula earlier this month. It impressed me that she blogged the fires from thousands of miles away, in New York, while incorporating quotes from brilliant sources as well as obtaining great photos. It was an eye-opener. Marie was also the main inspiration for me to begin and incorporate a food and culinary journalism module into the feature and review writing course that I teach the second years. 

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Last Saturday afternoon


Great, inspiring and peaceful places to read a book publicly in Cape Town: The Company Gardens - originating from the when the first Dutch colonisers arrived here in 1652 - is most likely my favourite; it's probably one of the most democratic spaces in the city, where class, racial and especially ecomonic differences are mostly, in my mind, swept beneath the compost heap.

Or, perhaps, it's an illusion that I like to buy into, especially in a city where the chasm between the have-nots and the haves seems as great as the silent void between earth and Mars. Here no-one, suprisingly, chases the beggars off the scores of wooden benches where they slumber beneath the trees and The Mountain: I've never seen a single person harassed here, nor made unwelcome.

I'm often drawn to this cool and nourishing heart of Cape Town. Especially because there is so little greenery and so few trees in Woodstock. To sit in the shade, or to sprawl on the lawn in front of the national art gallery, or the SA national museum, reading, while between-the-pages watching the world leisurely going by.   

That's even when the table cloth gets laid upon Table Mountain, like it was last Saturday afternoon. It's a sure sign that it’s southeaster time…the infamous 'Cape doctor' has been known on countless occasions to rape and plunder the city for days on end. It was exactly this gale that fanned into destruction the terrible fires that have destroyed enormous swathes of the peninsula since the weekend. 

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Close to the heart of God


I've picked up another faded and very 80s-looking copy of Richard Foster's 'Celebration of Discipline: The path to spiritual growth', which intermittently throughout the last12 years has helped me enormously, has given me respite.

Though published in 1978 and reprinted many more times in the 80s, I find it just as relevant, if not more so, in the much crazier 'now'. And nothing smells nicer than the pages of an old book... 

Foster writes, and I've quoted the following here before, but again I've needed to read it, today:

"In contemporary society our Adversary majors in three things: noise, hurry, and crowds. If he can keep us engaged in 'muchness' and 'manyness,' he will be satisfied. Psychiatrist C G Jung once remarked, 'Hurry is not of the Devil; it is the Devil.'

"If we hope to move beyond the superficialities of our culture--including our religious culture--we must be willing to go down into the recreating silences, into the inner world of contemplation. In their writings, all of the masters of meditation strive to awaken us to the fact that the universe is much larger than we know, that there are vast unexplored inner regions that are just as real as the physical world we know so well. They tell us of exciting possibilities for new life and freedom. They call us to adventure, to be pioneers in this frontier of the Spirit. Though this might sound strange to modern ears, we should without shame enroll as apprentices in the school of contemplative prayer."

As for me, personally, I want to be called to adventure. I want to be close to the heart of God.

[The photo is of one of a series of stained glass windows that light up the dark and sometimes foreboding but short Mill street - where the street lights never seem to be working. Mill street runs down the side of the Old Biscuit Mill and from it I turn left into Bromwell str. to get to my building, Here I always feel that I'm being welcomed home, especially on cold and wet and blustery Cape winter evenings.]


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Fire in my spirit

The Slave Lodge. On an extremely hot day. The building always grasps my attention; despite its history I'm drawn to the elegant architecture, which to me makes it much more attractive than the many other nearby buildings and some eyesores conjured up by architects over the centuries.

Slavery apalls me: I struggle to get my head around it. Also the fact that the Cape Colony was - according to my understanding - the one African 'country' to import slaves. I'm also aware that millions are entrapped in modern slavery.

The temperature in the city bowl, at almost 5pm, is hovering on 38 degrees: it's a dry, searing heat that (most unpleasantly) cooks my face skin as I beat the tar in a pair of jeans that I resent wearing, but shorts at work are out of the question. It's so hot that I'm squinting.

Today I've slogged through two double sets of lectures and spent the time inbetween and around them at my desk: mostly cheerfully I've worked my butt off while enjoying through my office window the view of The Mountain and its cable car etched against a holiday-blue summer sky.

However,  today, I also had one hour-long meltdown moment when I questioned my relevance on this planet and felt rage seethe through my veins and arteries at the thought that I'd perhaps battened down my hatches and had lost my sense of adventure.

Because my life must must have meaning, or else it's not worth living, my prayer for today was for fire in my spirit, and to lead an extraordinary (in the humblest sense I emphasise) life.

It is done.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Green market square of my heart


A beautiful deep summer's day beneath a cobalt sky, also temperatures just below 30 centigrade and bearable depending where in the city bowl you might find yourself.


No-one can ever accuse me of not being a tourist in my own city: it's how I - not always successfully - try to live, that is with the eyes and heart attitude-combination of both a child and a tourist, especially in my own life. So that I can constantly see things with fresh eyes and with joy of life. 

Today, despite it being a Saturday and that I could easily have slept in (I'll do that in the winter), I rushed into town on a minibus taxi (sullen MyCitiBus drivers are on strike for the third day) to get to the Spur on time for their great value before-11am-budget-breakfasts and bottomless coffee. But only to find it dark and empty: electricity load shedding, now at its worst in years because of a government that refuses to take responsibility for the mess the state energy provider finds itself in. 

It's also that very inability of the government and our infamous legacy-less president to have the backbone to say 'hey, we really are sorry, but we fucked up, but now let's do something about it' that sees me utterly contemptuous of what I'm increasingly perceiving to be the actions and attitude of a banana republic whose once great reputation is now in shreds.

 
But it's a beautiful day. And I'm surrounded by the even more beautiful people of Africa - and our visitors - in this green and cobbled heart of my city that I so adore spending time in and wondering around: I find Greenmarket Square and the warren of tree-lined trees around it peaceful, soothing, cool, inspiring: it's a vibe I thrive on.


After chasm-like Spur failure I found a great coffee shop just off the square that was offering breakfast and coffee despite the electricity blackout, as well tables and chairs in the shade on the pavement. 

Did I say it's a beautiful day? It's also awesome to be in shorts and a wife-beater vest, with my daypack on my back, after a work week in leg hair destroying longs.


Now I'm at one of my favourite joints on St. George's Mall. I'm tapping into free wifi and electricity (the building  must be powered by a generator?) for my devices, as well as flavourful organic coffee in a chilled and equally peaceful and inspiring environment: Motherland Coffee. 

Right at the back of the friendly space it's the awesome tunes and the light tapping of my keyboard that appears to be right in-tune with my heartbeat as I type out these words and dream of mental and geographic destinations acrosss the universe. Life is beautiful.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Last week (Why write? So as not to explode)


I write because if I don't I will explode. 

It's not my words that will change the world, instead it's the untanglying of knots that the writing down of my world into words that helps me to process and navigate it. 

It's that very process - and the weaving, in words, of my own personal tapestry - that imbues this life-thing with meaning. Because without the thinking about and grappling with of my journey - which right now is rather testing - my life would be sapped of its meaning. 

I guess it goes all the way back to those Greek words, often ascribed to Socrates, inscribed so long ago in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi: Know thyself. Those words - in my eyes one of the most profund of expressions - is about humankind's ancient quest for self knowledge. 

I type out streams, rivers of words every day because by the constant examination and scrutiny of my own life, I thereby imbibe my existence with meaning. Because without that meaning I would most likely be tempted to hurl myself nto the ocean from a cliff. If, of course, I wasn't as scared of heights and as squeamish as I am.

I'm also aware that it's only in solitude and silence that my mind is truly alert and connected to the universal web, that then my thinking and vision is razor-sharp and - ultimately - free of ego.

It also isn't easy; even here as I'm primed with coffee at the closest joint I could escape to from today's dreariness of work I struggle with and trip over words, and my concentration strugggles to perch for longer than a few seconds on the crumbs scattered across my mind. And over my heart. 

The sun through the smoky-glassed atrium high above me is roasting my neck and tempts me with even another excuse to chuck this putting-down-words-thing in. 

The other excuse is that my personal writing, especially here on this platform, has become so sparse that I might as well just chuck it in altogether, so as to cowardly take this constant pressure off of myself. 

Then another excuse, perhaps the toughest one of them all - if it catches me in an ungaurded moment, like now - is the who-gives-a-fuck-anyway-because-your-words-are-meaningless one, which - most of the time - is the most easy one of them all to succumb to.

Which brings me a full circle: I write because if I don't I will explode from the God-awful pressure from within. It's the pressure of the un-examined life; it's the pressure of remaining (out of choice of course) one of the living-dead (i.e. one of the majority)... i.e. a life unthinkingly spent accumulating wealth and material possessions so as to fill the void. That's mostly a life of not giving a fuck about anything or anyone but yourself. 

---

The summer is in full and heavy swing: It's a perfect summer's day, especially for those with luminous skins from the northern hemisphere where snowstorms are currently even shutting down the likes of Facebook and Instagram. 

If given the choice I'd much rather be there; I'm counting down to the Cape winter, which I will welcome with both arms wide open.
 
Outside the heat is so heavy, crushing my clothes and hair against my body and causing me to squint my eyes and to seek the shadows cast by walls so that I can have as little exposure to the scorching light as possible as I spider along them to get to anywhere that I absolutely need to. 

The moisture imediately evaporates from my eyeballs after I blink to try and save then from the summer, from the day, and from the abundance of bright light. 

---

As I write, as the words plop out like ill-assorted pebbles, I tend towards weightlessness. And freedom. Only, then, for the entire process to begin again when I push 'send' on my keyboard and then close the application while foolishly thinking (like I do every day) that my 'work' is done. 
 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The motherland of all coffees


The manager in a clinical book store up the road said that a five-day long heatwave was arriving in the Cape tomorrow. I overheard her and my heart sank, even while savouring today's coolness.

The Minstrel's Carnival (it used to be known as the Coon Carnival, but's considered derogatory now) razzled and dazzled through the heart of the city for most of yesterday afternoon. Right now I'm sitting peacefully and contentedly not very far from where I watched it, on the edge of The Taj and across the street from St. George's Cathedral.

At Motherland Coffee it's cool and shaded by the shimmering trees along the mall; I'm plugged into their electricity so as to charge my phone, and connected to their wifi so that in turn I can connect to the world. It's a win-win moment in time: The coffee is awesome, as are their carrot cake muffins, they're relativel deserted, also I'm left in peace for hours at end.

A Zimbabwean acquaintance who I'm hoping to get to know better, even to go on a date with, is visiting his family in Bulawayo. He's just sent me pictures of Rhodes' grave in the Matopos, which he's visiting for the second weekend in a row.

His bushveld photos jangled a deep chord within me, reminding me of how inaccessible the African bushveld is from Cape Town. It was always very reachable when I lived in Johannesburg also while I distanced myself from the world for years in Mpumalanga province. Perhaps I took it for granted: I never knew that I would miss it this much, as well the Highveld's BIG SKY - so unlike here - that becomes packed with at first purple and then angry elephant-grey cumulus that's thunderous and electric almost daily, every afternoon, every summer. I miss those awesome and inspiring thunderstorms more than I miss anything else from when and where I grew up. 

I began today on a wooden bench in a quiet and shaded section of the Company's Gardens, directly in line with the SA National Art Gallery, reading Sue Monk Kidd's 'The Secret Life of Bees'. I intend to end it in not a dissimilar way. That will be in keeping with one of my new year objectives: to have enough time every day to relax in the sun or shade reading.

 





 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Why write? I'm selling yeast, not bread


My aim is to agitate and disturb people. I'm not selling bread, I'm selling yeast.
- Miguel de Unamuno

Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo was a Spanish essayist, novelist, poet, playwright, philosopher, and Greek professor and later (twice) rector at the University of Salamanca. Most of all he  was an intellectual activist.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Why write? So you don't die of shame


Renowned South African poet, Antjie Krog, most famous in my eyes for her book The Country of My Skull about this country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, that was held not too long after the end of apartheid, stressed - according to translator André Naffis-Sahely - that a writer should not concern themselves as to whether they are read or not, since “one writes so that you don’t die of shame, that you didn't say something when a girl is cut up somewhere in a parking lot and raped … You know that a poem will achieve nothing, but at least you will get through the night.”

Don't touch me there


Okay, so I'm drunk now in a Charles Bukowski-kinda way; got home and on an empty stomach opened a chilled bottle of Cape champagne (you're not allowed to call it that anymore, the Frogs got sticky and possessive) and three medium tumblers later here you have me: I've been called a cheap date before, as a 'compliment', by someone wanting to get into my pants. "All it takes is two drinks," he said, before pouring a third. "Cheers," said I.

Jumping off the bus I was surpised to find Lower Main road so quiet and deserted, except when I passed the Old Biscuit Mill: a man reminding me of one of Shaka Zulu's impis ran past in only shorts and a backpack strapped on to him like a suicide vest, but to his back, barefoot on the tar and motoring it. It's Woodstock after all.

Without a stitch of clothing on I'm sprawled on a comfy wicker chair a friend of mine loaned me indefenitely, as part of pair, on Monday. I've got them as close up against the view of The Mountain, and amongst my plants, as I can get them. I'm as relieved to have ditched my clothes as I am to see on Google that tomorrow is going to be much cooler and overcast. 


That's a profile, one of many, but so disapointing in comparison to 'reality', of Devil's Peak, leftwards from my window where, thankfully, a  coolish breeze is caressing my skin and cock. 

I'm thankful to be home and alone. Enormously thankful.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Fire in my spirit


It's deep summer now and the heat has ramped up; today's the hottest day of the season so far, and at 36 degrees centigrade I'm expecting it to get even hotter through the next two months. 

As I type these words at in the cool and shade at the back of Motherland coffee shop in the tree-lined St. George's Mall, someone skirts my table in a short dress and reeking wonderfully of summer; it's probably the sunblock she's covered herself in. As for me, I'm dreading venturing back out into the afternoon.

It's my first and most chilled day back at work; it's also the first day I've worn long pants and more than slip-slops in five weeks. It's also my first day in weeks that I've not woken myself and immediately burrowed into a book. While most of the city appears to be back at work, Cape Town is still crawling with holidaymakers and tourists.

Friday afternoon I - in turn covered in factor 50 sunblock - spent at the Sandy Bay nudist beach (photo above) at Llandudno (view from the Hout Bay road below). I'd not been there since 1999; I'd forgotten how beautiful and remote it is, also how liberating it was to lie naked on a kaftan in the sand metres away away from the ice-line of the Atlantic Ocean; but there was no way I was swimming.


After my burnout in the last six months of 2014 I've promised myself I won't be taking on more than I can very comfortably handle: this is to be a year of much more writing, devouring novels and enjoying more poetry. It's also to be a year of much more Charles' time, alone.

I'm seeking adventure and to have fire again infuse my Spirit.