Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf

Whenever I see the Slangkop lighthouse in Kommetjie, on the other side of the Cape peninsula, I'm reminded of my joy at reading Virginia Woolf's 'To the Lighthouse'.

For some perspective, and to escape the Table Mountain hunchback that's constantly slouching at my back no matter where I am in Cape Town, we drove to Kommetjie on Sunday, via Chapman's Peak.

For a down-to-earth pub lunch and beer at The Lighthouse Pub & Grill, which I find enormously relaxing and free of the pretentiousness and superficiality of the mother city.

There the long-haired and sunbleached children are barefoot in baggies, on bicycles or skateboards and longboards. And surfboards.

I've been on vacation since Friday and have five weeks of summer ahead.

I've not left my flat since Sunday evening; it's my second day naked and unhindered at my PC and behind the drawn cotton drapes that I sourced a year ago for R15 a metre at a favourite and olde worlde Indian fabric store in Upper Main Road, Woodstock. The drapes are shut against the encroaching summer and the south-easter that's tormenting Windsock (my term for the suburb I've chosen to live in).

I'm heading, with D, to my home in Waterval Boven; it'll be the third time that I've made it to my paradise this year: Can't wait! To sink my hands into the soul of the soil; to wake up to the wonderful screeching of steel-on-steel of the 3am train en route from the big smoke of Gauteng to Maputo on the eastern coast of Mozambique.

It will be time punctuated with intense thunderstorms, also lightning and torrents of rain. Looking forward to gulping in deeply the mountain air, also to the unpolluted night sky like black velvet sprinkled with carats of diamonds, gems; to braaing meat on the fire at the private back of the house while lifting my glass of wine to the setting sun, which goes down a helluva lot earlier than the one that sizzlingly sinks  into western horizon off Camps Bay.

Nights of quiet, the only sound being the nightjar, which haunts me in a way that I want to be haunted.

No WiFi, never TV, not even radio, only piles of books. Many of them gardening and nature related.

It'll be the first time in years that I won't be alone there.

I'm not afraid of Virginia Wolf, or of retreating to my lighthouse.

There will be a deep recharging of batteries.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Notebook scribbles in-between food-wine-conversation from two years' ago

14/11/02: H's flat (no. 8) in Tamboerskloof, Samantha Court it was, I think in Burnside Road.

Slept here again last night. This time it was awesome. Another sumptuous meal. Yup, another one.

Thinking of the poet Roy Campbell and the writers Laurens van der Post and William Plomer in their early days - about what writers they were destined to become. All three deeply influenced me. Also thinking of Richard Rive and other African writers and journalists of their time - I would like now to become my time. 

Also thinking of Kerouac and his Beat poet mate Alan Ginsberg and William Burroughs, whose writing and life stories I adore; have just started reading Douglas Brinkley's 'Jack Kerouac Windblown World (the journals of Jack Kerouac 1947 - 1954).'

And then, crazily, and whom I've not yet begun to properly read, my mind catapults to Charles Bukowski [days later I was to discover and buy his biography at the Globe bookstore in Prague; it held me riveted].

H, over his amazing meal last night, loaned me Haruki Murakami's 'After Dark.'

Have spent most of the weekend with H in the most unsexual sense, from my side at least: his rank breath (halitosis?), rough and cracked heels and ugly feet, the yellow-brown nicotine stains on his lower front teeth freak me out. That's while his gorgeous apartment and incredible style really do it for me - also his kindness, compassion, hospitality and generosity on countless levels. But just not sexually.

He hands me a copy of the visually minimalist and awesome travel and style magazine Cereal. I'm impressed... might be a bit of what my friend Mia is trying to pull off with her mag. I need to take my 'hat' off to her more than, perhaps, I have thus far.

All of this I've procrastinated  with instead of completing my empathy conference paper for Prague; my flight from Cape Town is at 17h00 on Wednesday. Yup, just less than 2.5 days to get my ass into gear. I have no idea what this is about, except to not beat myself up and to acknowledge that I'm severely under pressure and that I'm exhausted, burnt out, done, and that - despite everything - I have done the best that I can with the tools I have at my disposal - or so I like to think.

That I've gone through a small breakdown, and a break up. I also regret my half-hearted attempt at the teaching development programme I partook in as part of my lecturing contract. However, it's too late right now to ponder all of that.

Jardin Majorelle: A Special Shade of Blue in Cereal Vol. 7. in Rue Yves Saint Laurent, Marrakesh. I've been there, was inspired there. Many Decembers ago, while starring in a completely different life movie to this one. December 2006.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Sharp right

Other people's baths: I crawl back into the womb as often as I need to; for reading and thinking, also to listen as the south-easter rips, shreds, tears its way down The Mountain and through the apartments, nooks and crannies of beach shorts- and slipslop- wearing white middleclassedness. 

Nature seems so safe to turn to, even in its rage, in the face of this last week's new world order: DJT.

The Second Coming
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

- William Butler Yeats (1865 -1939)

Thursday, October 27, 2016


It was 50 minutes well-spent in peak hour traffic.
To the fishing village of Kommetjie* on the other side of the peninsular.
The isolation of working at home for almost three weeks while my university campus has been out of bounds - because of the increasingly dangerous #FeesMustFall protests - has been getting to me.
I've found myself spiralling downwards.
Some alone time on the sea path from the village to the Slangkop Lighthouse and back was good for me, also time alone with my notebook and two beers at the homely LightHouse Pub, a favourite of mine, saw me centred again.
And sane.
For now.
The rest of the year remains uncertain.
Not to mention that Cape Town is embarking on level 3 water restrictions from 1 November.
And this, please note, is at the tail end of our 'rainy' season.
These are but some of the stresses that I go to sleep on, and awake to with a tight throat and chest in the early hours.

*Kommetjie (Afrikaans for `small basin,` approximately pronounced cawma-key) is a suburb of Cape Town, in the Western Cape province of South Africa. It lies about halfway down the west coast of the Cape Peninsula, at the southern end of the long wide beach that runs northwards towards Chapman`s Peak and Noordhoek. The village is situated around ......

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Particles of heart & cayenne pepper dust

A quarter of the year and Spring have trickled through my long fingers since I last left any trace of me here.

I've crept in through the backdoor, though, a few times, to attempt to -decently and with dignity- slough my skin in the drafts folder before going public so-to-speak: what to leave in, what to leave out. But, without getting my shit together.

I have slunk out leaving behind muddy footprints and the gristle of half-chewed, semi-digested bones, chunks of my own flesh and skin, also pillars of salt. These are visible only to me as I look shamefaced over my shoulder at my lot as I admit defeat and scamper safely back into the deep of the forest: in invisibleness.

Pushing pause for reasons still unknown to me. Floundering. Not that I'm floundering any less now, except that I'm perhaps more comfortable in my crinkly crackling sloughing skin: put 'em words down or die.

Even dying's easier than returning to 'Advertising' or 'Television' in Jo'burg.

Now, as the bright, adolescent Summer sun sinks behind Kloof Neck and as Woodstock fades towards the still distant dusk, this year in retrospect seems only to have made sense to me from the start of my three deeply relaxing and restful mid-year weeks in Waterval Boven, Mpumalanga.

Then a late-July, mid-academic year's fumbling start on a doctoral path at the University of Cape Town. Insecure making as I question my intelligence, also my role as an academic type and caucasian human being living at the tumultuous tip of Africa. Do I have anything whatsoever to offer anyone, is there a role that I can play here, in the humblest sense, that is?

Wham! Bam! Out of nowhere, by the end of the winter month, within 24-hours I found myself in a new relationship: 0 to 145 km kilometers in the split of an atom. Another layer of skin now ripped and stretched from my flesh and frame: I'd given up hope, I'd slumped into meaningless sex and even less meaningful conversations, anything to numb me from cold aloneness. And from the depression that accompanied two empty years' firing empty cartridges into the pitch black above the Atlantic.

With my phone off and the sun sinking and me wishing that I could turn my coffee into wine, it's as good a day as any to splash bloody, tattered words across this blog. Which ain't that long after I'd decided to delete and then burn it's carcass, to wipe my albeit meager and listless presence from the 'Net, like vomit from the floor.

As our universities burn, as the fees don't seem to fall, I sit working from home because it's not safe on the locked down campuses. There's too much time to pick at my sloughed skin, to scratch at scabs, to clumsily finger veins and arteries, as if they're not mine.

One of my orphan orchid's is flowering; I'd picked the scraggly, dying plant off a tattered turf next to a dustbin in Seapoint. A year ago. Amongst the piss, blood, shit and cum on the streets that I walk daily.

There's also a buttery pale green avocado spread thickly across my toast, crackling with black pepper, salt, cayenne pepper.

The index finger on  my right hand's still tender from the steel jab of yesterday afternoon's HIV test.

This evening the rusted and corrugated multi-coloured iron roofs of Woodstock are bleak and lifeless. Tomorrow, in full and wholesome morning sunshine, they'll take my breath away and my heart will sing and soar again.

The wind's died down and as outside fades to ink I faintly see my reflection in the glass behind my desk.

Photo credit (at the top): Darrin Higgs

Sunday, July 03, 2016

A note on 'escapement', from The Edge

Waterval Boven, Mpumalanga. The day's been very quiet and peaceful. Have mostly been reading & writing. It has warmed up and the sun's come out. I've been watering parts of the garden. Most likely illegally. And pottering around in it. 

Now I'm back in the kitchen: A brandy & Coca-Cola (the wine's finished) and going to braai a little later, with the large steak, lamb chop and boerewors I chose at the butcher late on Thursday afternoon. That I'll have to do from my rickety garden couch, outside, before the temperature drops to the forecast -1 degrees. 

Deeply peaceful and quiet; I'm thoroughly content as my first week of recess winds down.

My house and garden are at the very edge of the village. The village, in turn, is on the edge of the escarpment. The predictive text tool first auto typed out 'escapement', which probably best describes this space. And, also, this trip 'home.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Five yellow flowers floating on a pond

A veil of sadness has trawled behind me this entire day. Just enough of it to steal my joy. Unexplainable. Now, I'm home, hollow, and the promised rain has arrived: there's been a 100% chance of rain promised since 2pm. Juicy wetness and puffs of pigeon-grey fog finger my window-on-the-world as I try to work; the lamp on my desk on is a warm and welcoming glow. From six stories up I can clearly hear the splatter of overly ripe fig raindrops on the inky tarmac below.

I walked a long but favourite route to my bus after my last lecture. Via the Company Gardens at Cape Town's heart. Where I go to saturate my soul. It's a few extra but welcome kilometres of solitary wandering in a busy world.  I wonder where the many homeless folks that were sleeping on the well-clipped lawns are resting, waiting now as a soaking wet and cold winter's night's being served up.

Egyptian geese - which I grew up surrounded by in the far north of the country, which I too got to know via my solitary wandersings - confidently strutted about while protectively showing off the feathered clumps of newly-born chicks. Tiny. The old garden was vibrant with their unique calls.

I've spent much time in many gardens in this country, this one is the first, the oldest, the most filled with lingering ghosts. The first ground here was was readied for sowing seed on 29 April 1652. It's 364 years old. The oldest cultivated tree, a Pyrus communis (Saffraan pear) planted around this time still exists, protected and supported like a very old woman who's not all there, in the garden.

Someone had thrown five yellow hibiscus flowers on to the surface of the large pond.

Walking slowly, peacefully to console me of the unexplainable, I soaked up both the greyness and the homelessness around me. Only the pigeons bathing, showering in my favourite fountain seemed unperturbed as I picked myself through the garden and it's less travelled paths and walkways.

This was so starkly different to my last visit just short of a week ago. Then the city was bathed in bright winter sunshine beneath a champagne sky. Those days I adore: it's when the very oxygen molecules seem to individually vibrate and shine with exuberant life. It lends days like that an awesomeness, a surrealness that leads you to believe you're living in a miracle.

It's 17h29 as I type these words and dusk is upon me as I cocoon myself in this post, and in my mind, and in my apartment. Although I've a night of work ahead me, I'm grateful to be both home and for this home. Even so, I can't but help thinking about what life would be like tonight on the cold, wet streets as another Antarctic cold front ghosts, not unlike the reaper, across this province and deep into the interior.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The girl on the train

Saturday, I took a train to Kalkbay. It's a favourite place of mine. There the wind, reeking of Ocean and Ozone, blows through my mind. It untangles my convoluted thoughts. These are the long, thick, voluptuous seaweed trunks that crisscross my tempestuous winter brain. These are the trees that obscure my vision and reduce my perspective, preventing me from seeing the wood.

The journey is a pleasurably slow one, just short of an hour long. Time to think, read. To finely observe people, mountains, the ocean.

I met a young woman on the train... We started talking. Spontaneous combustion. My life is richer for having met Selina.

She aspires to be an oceanographer, is already a teacher. She adores God. Has never had a boyfriend.

Her eyes, two shiny black velvet berries. They glistened with tenderness and love.

My heart is wide open to Life. So is Selina's.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Rain 2

A swarm of seagulls rip and shred the barren air above a corner of an empty lot in a street below. Crumbs.

It's a day bright with magnificence; it’s a pure light that confidently thrusts itself into your eyes. Not unlike that bunch of rowdy, happy people arriving late at a club from another party, high on the previous party, drunk on that party, fumbling with payment, also in-house humour, as they thrust themselves past the doorman. Adamantly.

The Mountain, solid in in its graniteness today, every crack and crevice starkly etched, looks sternly on, always mute, but present, alert.

Today, from the bird's’ eye, Woodstock appears shanty-town like; mismatched tin roofs, most of them deeply basted in rust, provide a flashback to this country’s early gold and diamond mining towns that became cities during distinct pieces of the last two centuries. The early Kimberley, Johannesburg, Pretoria. South African versions of the Wild West. And an integral part of the SA psyche - the wild, anarchic vein that unlike the Australians has not been expunged. I delight in our unexpunged anarchy, ‘cos it’s thick in my DNA and blood.

My chair creaks as I lean back to break my hunch over the notebook I'm writing in, and to eye my steaming porcelain-white bowl of green tea. The sooner I can finish it the sooner I can click the kettle on and get to my already primed coffee plunger: dark, strong, sweet, I like to be kicked in my gut.

I'm alive. And a loner. My phone’s been off since I got back from a waste of a time of a night-out, as I so well knew it would be. Some of my behavior's addictive; I’ve been known to hit myself on the head with a hammer and to, still, ask why it hurts.

It was yesterday that I calmly wrote those words in my morning pages.

Tonight I edit them at Cafe Ganesh, on dry red wine. With crayfish samosas partly camouflaged by Irish-green coriander. Steaming baked pita anxiously waiting to be broken, like the body of Christ, then dunked into an inconsequential glass petri dish over-filled with hummus; the equivalent of entering Jerusalem on a donkey.

Chicken satay on a square plate. Chips.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Rain 1

The winter Rain has (hopefully) arrived. It slashed my bedroom window on Wednesday night and obliterated the harbour and distant Robben island from my sight.

My sigh was one of deep relief.

The weather in Cape Town has been horribly upside down because of the El Nino effect AND climate change. Record temperatures. Records are being broken in the worst possible sense:

March temperature smashes 100-year global record

Great Barrier Reef: 93% of reefs hit by coral bleaching

Florida wakes up to climate change

Greenland sees record-smashing early ice sheet melt

2015 smashes record for hottest year, final figures confirm

SA is under the tyranny of its worst drought in a century and 2015 was the driest year ever. I tentatively hope we're at the tail end of it, well of this session of it.

It leaves me horribly unsettled about now, and the immediate future. The long-term one is a foregone fuck up; I believe that it's just too damn late.

Perhaps, selfishly, I'm grateful I don't and won't have children... I could not 'gift' them this.

It's Earth Day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Home is a mental, not metal construct

I get up to pour another glass of wine from the box in the fridge; it's the almost-last until payday on Monday. Because of my trip 'home' last month. (Yes, I wrote box.)

My mind is on 'home', where I spent two weeks, one on either end of  the Easter weekend. Not unlike a solid, heavy set of bookends.

Sometimes over the last three years, I've wondered if I'd maybe sold myself out. To the incoming text 'ping' my phone makes when my salary is paid into my account like clockwork every 25th of the month.

I did not even once have that monthly certainty in the almost seven years I lived permanently there; not that I expected it either. As a freelancer etc. financial security was never ever expected, nor on my agenda.

How do I know that I've not sold my soul for my current job and it's monthly text ping of reassurance? I know it because I love with endless passion what I do (and the people I work with), even though years later I earn less than I ever did then. I really don't care. Money does not drive me.

See that pic above? I took it as I got 'home'. It was after I got into the house with some fumbling at the new lock on the old and battered backdoor security gate, then turned the lights and geyser on, before skipping outside like Bambi to take a photo of the house beneath the glittering new moon. Excitement.

Years had passed.

Next morning I cut off the three fucked and faded 'for sale' signs on the fence and emailed the agents: no more. 'Home' had been on the market since mid-2012, when my world collapsed.

Home is a mental construct.

Many years ago, in December 1989 to be exact, I'd sat shivering to near death on a merciless wooden bench in Stockholm Train Station. It was the wee hours of the morning (my grandmother was from Edinburgh). I was clutching my overly big backpack watching two drunks loudly clouting each other and roaring Nordic obscenities. (I don't ever want to fuck with a Viking.) I was there because travelling in Scandinavia was extremely expensive for someone just out of 'national service' in the apartheid state's army. All I could afford was a Eurail pass and did my best to take trains to anywhere at night so that I could sleep sitting up. But warm. Because accommodation, even in youth hostels, was out of the question.

I was waiting for a train that was going to take me northwards. Far northwards. Across the frozen tundra, over the Arctic circle, into Finland.

I was thinking about home. I didn't have one.

I was fantasising about a place that I could call home, a place that would house my books on a rickety wooden bookshelf. A place that I could travel from, for even long periods at a time (who knew about the prison of debt at 21?), but that I could always return to. To the place where my books were. My plants too. The place where I could sink my hands into the loamy soil. Where I could light a fire outside the back door and cook my meat. And eat it straight off the grill. Also to light a fire in the hearth that's a pyjama-covered arm away from my bed on the nights when the escarpment edge temperatures plummeted low enough to freeze the water in my Free State sandstone birdbath. When the black frost, not unlike the Reaper, would obliterate my garden.

I had to come 'home', now, to realise that I was home, that I had one.

Okay, my last wine of this month is finished so my day might as well be over too. Cheers to me and my birthday, yesterday. Time lag; I've been under the weather. Terribly so.


Writing is therapeutic.

To the land of the rising sun

Plane's are practical. But, transport by road is my preference; I want to visually - in fact with every single one of my senses - join the dots between my departure and arrival. I want to see, smell, hear, taste and feel my  journey.

I desire for my senses to jangle with life like raw nerve-ends that have just been severed by a blunt axe. It's for this same reason that wherever possible I prefer not to use the underground transport systems in the cities I travel to that have them. I want to see people in the real-time action of living their lives in their 'real life' environments. As opposed to watching them with their masks on while sitting or standing in steel and glass tubes. Going nowhere, with me, fast.

I left Joburg on a bus. It's only 239 km to 'home' on the almost dead straight trans-sub continental N4 toll route that connects Maputo, Mozambique in the East with Walvis Bay, Namibia in the West. Sunrise, sunset.

That relatively short journey eastwards, 'home', was made much wonderfully longer by memories. Countless memories. Mostly good. Some bad, but for good in the end. It's called life I believe.

I'd travelled this road a zillion times, mostly for work as a journalist and then as a newspaper owner (humblest sense); quite often for love; sometimes to escape my self-imposed isolation; other times to escape Joburg, Gauteng, people, squeaking and squealing like a bat outta hell desperately seeking the peace, quiet, solitude, books and sane-making garden of my sanctuary. I've travelled it at the craziest and most extreme times. I thrived on my nomadism, the illusion of freedom that was incorporated in it - smoke and mirrors. All smoke and mirrors.

Isn't life exactly that, the illusion of meaning that we desperately clutch and squeeze out of it, not at all dissimilar to the fragrant but fleeting and sweet juice, I raped this morning, out of the voluptuous ruby grapefruit I bought at Gardens Pick 'n Pay on Saturday.

Was fucking worth it.

[That pic was one of many over even more years that I've taken at Milly's on the N4 outside Machadodorp; its border post transience has always allured me.]

Welcome 'home' Charlie Boy. And for fuck's sake stop being so prissy about the words your pour into this always-empty pisspot; no-one (thankfully) gives a toss anyway.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Exploding eyes and escarpment edges

The first cold front of the winter arrived in Cape Town the night before I left. It rode into town like an unknown hooded outlaw galloping with gusto into a dry and dusty frontier town. A desperately-needed dump of moisture that soothed nerves and senses, that turned tar roads glassy, oily, as if they'd been sprayed by a massive can of hairspray. That left them reeking awesomely of, well, wetness. A most welcome and deep-reaching wetness.

That and the lurch in temperature were most welcome after the extreme and drought-ridden roasting of the still lingering (as it does in the deep south) Cape summer. Worldwide temperature highs for the first three months of 2016 smashed records by a long shot. Climate change. The slow turning up of the heat as the frogs in the pot sunbathe and turn a blind eye. Eyes that are close to exploding.

That was Friday, 18 March when the mercury, like a freezing penis and foreskin, shrunk into itself.

The next day I was gone, with a dramatically increased carbon footprint, on a flight to Johannesburg, then a bus to the land of the rising sun. Mpumalanga. To the very edge of the Middleveld to be exact. Where the days may be hot, at times brutal, sometimes humid, but where the nights are always cool. The mountain air always clean. The Milkyway always pristine.

I was going 'home', leaving behind the neat and prissy vineyards and fields of the Cape. Also the little Europe of Cape Town. For veld and acacia trees, red-rich soil country roads crisis-crossing a verdant landscape still luminous from the late-arriving rains.

Sunday, February 28, 2016


I have a place tucked far away from the madding crowd. I'm returning to there for two weeks over Easter. My last, brief, visit was, just, over two years ago. I've had neither the inclination nor the money to return. Until now. 

I had lived there for just short of seven years. Before sinking beneath the weight of a major breakdown. After which, and only when I could, 'suddenly' moving to KwaZulu-Natal. Where I searched for (different) work and for a (different life). It mainly entailed following love. And, crucially, beginning the struggle to absolve myself of (all) debt. 

Since leaving there, I've had a love-hate relationship with it. Despite that I'd happily spent some of the most interesting years of my life there (a David in the cave experience), in the end I'd hated it, felt trapped there. 

That's why I've had it up for sale since mid-2012. Recession and all It hasn't sold and up until now has felt like a telephone pole draped over my shoulders (I've, literally, experienced that, a story for another time). While there at the end of March and into early April, I'm going there to make a decision as to whether to take it off the market and to to begin to use it again. As an escape. From the (recently) extraordinarily hot summer months that I, unlike many others, put down to. climate change. My fantasy is use it as a place to recharge and to get my writing (in the humblest sense) done away from the distractions of work (even though it is work) and life. In. The. City. 

The old house is in a rundown but beautiful village on the very edge of the Mpumalanga escarpment. It hovers in the slim pizza slice of Middleveld that's thrust gracefully between the Highveld (Johannesburg is only three hours or 239 km away) and the Lowveld. Mbombela (previously Nelspruit) is 98 km or an hour away. Kruger National Park is close, as is Mozambique's Maputo relatively nearby: I've already left early on a Sunday morning for Maputo, had fleshy Mozambiquan- prawns-and-beer on the very edge of the Indian Ocean, thereafter bought fresh fish in the market before making it back home the same day.

There's not a pretentious bone to the house and the village; it's not a town.

Most of all, I miss the 3am train through the shunting yards; that's when I groggily wake, grin, then pull the thin duvet closer to my naked body. I gulp in deep the pure mountain air, the awesome (I'm not worthy) view of the Milky Way, the deep silence, summer electric storms that catapault terrifying blasts of thunder to ricochet off Imemeza. Imemeza is the the mountain behind my house. Imemeza means, quite perfectly, 'place of shouting'; how apt. 

Here is where I am closest to my God; nothing comes between us here: with my ears I'm able to truly hear, with my eyes I'm able to truly see. We're in a constant and beautiful conversation that picks up from my last pee in the early hours of the morning, tapers off to an unconscious level when I close my eyes.

When I bought the home (another awesome and long story) it had been standing empty for two years. The garden was devastated, most of the original was gone. My hands in the soil, dirt under my rough nails as I got it going from scratch again, was part of my healing process as I recuperated from a few heavy-going years in Johannesburg's cutthroat media industry. I'd thrown up all of that, and it's trappings, to move to a village without even a single set of traffic lights. 

I lived an isolated and quite life there, travelled extensively through Mpumalanga and SA, even finished a masters degree from there. But in the end collapsed. When I resisted my new chapter.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Breaking free the words from beneath the ice

Worked late. Then walked downhill to the dodgy but gorgeously notorious Kimberley Hotel.

R39 for dinner, incredible value especially at the ass end of a taxing month. Two glasses of house wine (ask no questions, hear no lies) for another 30, throw in a tenner tip, then a tipsy trip another downhill to the bus route.

Passed the Dias Taverna en route to the stop (it's a safer bet than down Buitenkant) while enthralled by the Dutch cheese of a voluptuous moon on a pleasant and still late summer's eve.

It was at the busy Dias almost two springs ago that I watched novelist Geoff Dyer scoff down sumptuous Portuguese food while I was serendipitously halfway through his Death in Varanasi: Open Book Festival 2014.

Despite its many faults, I adore my city, especially from on foot. 

Then standing back in the shadows beneath a wind-whipped tree and 'our hinterland is there' mural - no attention please, I'm British (joke) - before alighting the dead quiet people-are-exhausted-and-have-nothing-to-say 102. To a blustery Salt Circle; from Tuesday evenings Lower Main Road bustles with women, some girls. 

Their bodies are obviously theirs to do what they want with, respect, nevertheless I feel fatherly and protective. 

Especially of the ones kitted out in what looks like Sunday School best: sensible frocks, sensible pumps, the prerequisite skinny bare legs. 

Soon the winter rains will come and icy winds; even so the hunger will remain, as will the wolf at their door. 

Like tear plops I sprinkle my prayers and blessings, smiles too, across the tired old streets and paths of ancient Cape Town.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Never kill a mockingbird

The words slip away between the days, catch on to the hem of the weeks.
Summer dawdles in the direction of autumn.
They might be shorter, but packed they remain; I'm nevertheless grateful for less sunlight and the knowledge that even the hell of (this) summer shall end.
And the days slip and slide into-and-between the words (that I never write) so much so that the weight of the unwritten becomes unbearable, so much so that one either writes or throws oneself (quite happily) off a bridge.

I walk to and through the Company Gardens for solace and to soak up nature, as much as one can do in the heart of the city, albeit a nature-rich city like this one. A set of shutters at the National Library soaked in the morning light as if it were dew, soothes and then quenches my brittleish soul: Never ever kill a mockingbird.

"Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” ― Harper LeeTo Kill a Mockingbird

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Bat outta hell

I'm unexpectedly 1404 km from home and travelling light; one small backpack containing a novel, toiletries and a single change of clothing.
This far north the sun sets much earlier. The sky's bigger. Struck I was, from the minute I disembarked from the orange plane, by vistas of eye-soothing greenness.
Welcome to the perfect summer climate of the Highveld. In comparison Cape Town is barren, bleak and barren with droughtness. I'm relieved to be here.
Sitting topless by the pool I've lit a fire while watching bats swoop in the inky duskness.
I'm here to say goodbye, for now, to my mother.
Memories surge through the wiring of my mind... childhood, adolescence, my foolish early adulthood. The greens of summer, the cobalt blue of this world's ceiling, the veld, the cumulus billows. All trigger me, make me nostalgic, sometimes sore.
This is suburbia, but it's quiteness, peace and (electric fence) security is alluring in its illusion of peace.
I am love.
Twilight peels itself off. The skin below is tattooed black. This is the electric Highveld.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


Fucking sterile suburbia. Vredehoek since Sunday.

Has none of the life and texture of my streets. I emphasise sterility. As hot as a convection oven. The streets are clean. The walls are high and uncracked. Bleached of life.

No-one's on the streets except for those walking shiny-coated dogs or straddling titanium saddle mounts and two thin wheels, which alone are worth more than many years of working, or begging, for the average man or woman in my hood.

A total shortage of smiles and eye contact. People walking around barbed wired in and electric fenced out, lit with the secret language of little blue 'activated - don't touch lights'; 'cos personal walls are so last decade.

I'm house sitting in hell. But I sure love the aircon (we've all got our price).

And Stella, the wire haired terrier puppy and I have bonded on the couch; she's sussed me and has me at her beck and call.

It's scorchingly hot all day long; my glasses slide down the bridge of my nose and make me look like a bigger ass than I already am.

Psycholigally, what's behind self-deprecation? My answer? Humour.

I either laugh at myself or throw myself off a bridge.


Friday, January 15, 2016

Looking backwards so as to contemplate now

Hiding behind long white cotton curtains, despising the bleached glare and heat of a city scoured by torrid temperatures and smoke from the vegetation fires on the distant peninsula, I take a peak at this view. 

It was the view that I could almost touch from my bed in the wonderfully dark, cooler room beneath the swirling fan in the apex of the A-frame house. How I wish I was there. Now, On the monkeyed hill above Hibberdene on KwaZulu-Natal's south coast. 

I spent the week that ended in Christmas there, visiting my ageing father. But he was an alien there, hiding in his corner, trapped in a spiral of negativity. 

I've spent much time there, when the house was unoccupied. Many times alone. Mostly in the extremely short but champagne days of winter. Or at Easter (often). And in September. Keenly I would listen at night, beneath the whirring fan, to the Indian Ocean thundering against the rocks, imagining the moon dropping a lighted ladder to the shore. 

Or, my favourite, beneath the dripping, misty rain that would comfortably muddle my mind into a contorted zone of dreams and unreal distractions. This is possible only when life's handbrake has been jerked up. The always-green grass wet and matted like a dog's fur after it's just shaken itself from the sea. 

I could live there.

There I've shared the space with precious, important loves of my life; their faces are slightly blurred now like teary glass that's dribbled slowly for a century-old. The Love - my memories of whom are the deepest-scratched-and-picked-and-tooled into the rockface of my soul - remains a heavy beautiful paperweight pressing down on a corner of my life's map; I was so broken at the time. Things can never be the same again, there's no going back, all that I can do now is strive to be the person that I should've been then, now.

My father. I came to see my ageing father. He brooded in the corner like a black widow spider; the king has lost his castle, dreads death, is depressed by a country he no longer really understands. It's the first time I've experienced him like this. I have forgiven myself for resenting him and spending so much time in the bath, reading.

Only now as dusk turns to ink and the ink evaporates The Mountain does my mood lift, slightly, and life, with the slight drop in temperature, becomes bearable. Alone I sit at this screen and keyboard not needing anyone, knowing that I could slip away unnoticed for days. The thought of going through the year's paces again, pouring energy into desperate, stubborn youths, depletes my battery in advance. Tonight that contemplation's bleak.

I'm sure tomorrow that I'll somehow be fine. 

Although I linger as quiet as a midnight mouse in the bottom drawer of my memories, I long to extend my arm and to touch that subtropical view, to drink in deep the passion and welcome of the Indian Ocean, also that perfect blue sky.

This life's been a good one.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Kodak magic moment

'Hello white man.'
- 'Hello brown man.'
'You got a cigarette for me?'
- 'Sorry man, I don't smoke and I don't have any money.'
'I don't need your money.'

The walls we walk our streets behind; souls skirting each other gingerly in the night.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Ripped and rippled / Cause and effect

A people-free day filled with sleep, books, silent words between desk and bed. 

Sale Christmas cake and a French press of coffee. 

Turn on the lamp in my corner on the world. 

Last night the lower slopes of Devil's Peak burned before my eyes. 

Today's the fourth flat-out day of howling, tearing, ripping, shredding wind; I adore the forced isolation. 

Tomorrow back to work after a month of conflicting emotions and time with people. 

New chapter. Varying irons in different fires; variously shaped pebbles launched not on the whim into ponds and puddles, let's see what comes back on the ripples.

A chapter of words and writing and related travel.

A year of sleeping alone. Future tense. Choice. Peace and freedom. 

Dusk through a dusty window; my kingdom for a few days away alone with my thoughts in the remote and dry-aired, big-sky Karoo, maybe on a farm called Klapperbos. 

Perspective before the rush and roar of the next 365.

Friday, January 08, 2016

A day in the walk of; something's got to give

I've been without a car for two years exactly. I still believe it's one of the best decisions I've ever made. Tough at first, psychologically, especially in a country where motor vehicles hold much sway in the national psyche, where formal public transport has in the recent past been challenging and underdeveloped, where distances between places are vast. 

Walking has meant much better personal fitness and health, most importantly it's let me get to grips with my city and has meant that, too, I've a much more balanced view of it. When vacuum-packed into an air-conditioned and sterilised car it's easy to believe the photoshopped tourist brochures proclaiming that Cape Town is a world-class tourist destination. That's because the brochures are filled with mostly perfect-looking, perfectly-bronzed people with a perfect set of teeth, also perfectly wealthy. The majority, the reality of this city and country is - always - airbrushed out and made voiceless.

Instead, when walking my city - past the piss, the shit, the vomit and the bleak realities of poverty and social injustice - it becomes glaringly obvious that this city is most likely (I stand to be corrected) one of the world's most unequal cities. Appallingly so.

I began my morning with an 8am dentist appointment at the far end of Sea Point, on the Atlantic Seaboard, where I seem to have spent a lot of time recently. Then I decided to walk back through the neighbourhood, past Green Point, to the licensing department. Renewing my unused driver's license will be a lot easier than having to reapply for it from scratch one day if my circumstances differ.

A magnificent scorcher of a day, from early on. The sense of open space - sky, sea and esplanade - enthralled me, made me want to walk until the very edge of the earth, and then over it. With factor 50+ sunblock slathered on everywhere.

My sense of freedom was heightened by me knowing that I'd only be back at work next week. I felt even less encumbered while hiding in the shade of a a tree watching hanggliders land.

They'd spiralled down after launching themselves and their selfie sticks and passengers from Signal Hill. I'll take that flight sometime; I'm a fan of birdseye perspectives. On all matters.

The licensing department was a stark reminder of how bleak and hot and ugly and impatient things can be, particularly when dealing with life admin. It cost me three hours, but I left with a sense of satisfaction that I'd ticked a dreaded biggie off.

I'm not one for tourist destinations, especially in season, but the V&A Waterfront was merely a further and decent walk away. I fancied myself slipping into a dark, air-conditioned art movie. Alan Bennet's The Lady in the Van was awesome. Popcorn and mineral water. Cool air on my bare arms and legs, an almost empty cinema; who on earth could possibly want to spend a magnificent day like this indoors? Me.

Technology! Later, at bedtime, my phone informed that I'd taken 17,374 steps over 14.17 km and that I'd burned 732 kcal. And the NSA via Google knew exactly which pavements I'd trodden on. Everything comes at a price, especially when we don't know the exctent of it.

It was a good day spent walking my city. Looking back at this post, my photos are probably as glaringly tourist-brochure orientated as the ones I'm criticising... nevertheless, take it from me that the above is only but a minute glimpse of the reality of Cape Town. This one day in my life - between a dentist (the ability to afford a dentist and to have the medical insurance that I do, even though it's the bottom rung, is another thing) and what I got up to at the V&A - is miles out of the reach of many millions of ordinary South Africans. Roughly 25% of my nation's youth are unemployed.

I'm trying hard not to sink under the weight of these realities, under the reality of all that I have, of the life that I lead. And I'm a mere university lecturer. Without a car. I am so extremely well off, it does not sit comfortably.

This year I will focus on what I can do to, somehow, 'rectify' the imbalance, the inequality in my personal sphere of influence. I've failed so many times befiore that it's not even funny.

Right now all that I know are words. I'll wrnite myself out of the pain and the unbearable weight. As, according to translator André Naffis-Sahely, poet Antjie krog stresses: 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. 

Something's got to give. Surely it can't go on like this.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

I like it blue

At the end of another way too long summer's day I took one of my favourite walks along the Mouille Point promenade towards Sea Point and Signal Hill on the Atlantic seaboard. 

The Atlantic Ocean smells differently to the Indian on the other side of the peninsula and is rich with the reek of plankton and seaweed. When the weather changes and a cold front comes the cool, dank air from the Atlantic even permeates my Woodstock flat and welcome, cocooning fog noses and smudges my windows, obliterates The Mountain.

Having grown up in a landlocked and high altitude city whose sprawl knew no end, one of the many highights of living on the coast, first in Salt Rock avillage on KwaZulu-Natal's north coast prior to moving here, is that there's a wonderfully distinct line between the land and sea. It works for me that I know exactly where the city ends, that right here where I walk is where the show stops. I understand my place, where I fit in. There's a finality to a promenade... and with it the ability to look back to where you live and work and to have perspective, while simultaneously looking out to sea and to your future, to contemplate the path ahead. 

Is it obvious that with a week before I'm due back at work, it and the challenges ahead are weighing heavily on my mind.

I ended my long and slow stroll with an exceptional steak and red wine at the Art Deco-style Buzbey Grill at the bottom of Glengariff Road in Sea Point. It's an institution. Run by the legendary and sometimes wonderfully foul-mouthed chef-patron Jimmy Kyritsis, it's been on the go for about 30 years. The curt, oily skinned waiter leaves me to my own devices, whether it involves the novel I'm reading or scribbling in my notebook. For that he's handsomely rewarded.     

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Mouille Point hunger games

Most perfect second day of the year in all the world. Was up early, coffee and watching the birds in the treacle light of summer. Cabin fever. Needing space. Breakfast and broad, wide and unhindered horizons at Mouille Point, just across from the landmark 1884 lighthouse by the same name. 

Silently observe friends in a long-lasting but brittle relationship as they unpick each other. I leave them to it, in exchange for the freedom of the city and my life under my feet; have backpack will travel where and when I want taking none into consideration, but not unkindly.

I'm over-brimming with words; 'til now I've been too exhausted - and depressed - to fish then from the murky swamp of my mind and to 'real' them into tangible words on paper, or on to cloud-paper in the perfectly interconnected ether.  

The ocean is again my inspiration as I imagine it connecting all the dots of the places I want to so badly visit, taste, to have relationships in as I contemplate hair, facial structures and words that I'm alien before. So that I may know for sure I am indeed alive and not the living dead, that I'm more than the sum of the parts of my routines and work-heavy patterns.

I sometimes forget: That the basis of life is absolute freedom, that the goal is joy, and that the result of that perfect combination is forward motion, i.e. growth.

I gouge out my eye and leave it on the minuscule terra cotta espresso cup saucer in lieu of a tip.

Friday, January 01, 2016

In memory of the winter (from an unposted post)


Phone off since 04h15, just after getting on to my Japanese mattress on the floor: king-size, compacthard, soothing grey, in the corner of the room. 

Coccooned behind rain-spattered windows; I'll miss this in the long, parched summer of avoiding the spray-tan beaches. As the hair grows back on my calves no longer covered in skinny jeans, as my favourite white muddies to honey and feet get aired in slip slops or barefoot for a season.

Has been a day of sleep and deep silence. And books, real ones. William Burroughs, still. And googling Denton Welch but seeing and not liking my face in the horror-screen of my iPad. And the French press of Italian blend, strong, aromatic Arabica. On the floor amongst the treacle sugar and earthy jug half-filled with milk. Two percent.

One fly in the flat, fat like a raisin-tick but motor-propelled with silent-invisible wings: against an elephant-grey afternoon sky I'm intent on murder. Waiter, there's a (fat) fly in my soup... .


That was October, it's now the first day of 2016 and this week's heat has gnawed away at my mirth. I hide in the shade and position myself in a drafty passage. It's the hottest, bleakest summer that I've experienced thus far in Cape Town: a devastating nation-wide drought and soaring temperatures are put down to the current El Niño weather phenomenon, which is playing havoc with world weather systems, is bamed for a string of extreme weather events.

What freaks me is out is that this is, I believe, a mere taster of what's to come with our climate crisis 'future' as we idiotic human beings continue to miss the goals required to avoid dangerous climate change.

"Limiting the average global surface temperature increase of 2°C (3.6°F) over the pre-industrial average has, since the 1990s, been commonly regarded as an adequate means of avoiding dangerous climate change, in science and policy making. However, recent science has shown that the weather, environmental and social impacts of 2°C rise are much greater than the earlier science indicated, and that impacts for a 1°C rise are now expected to be as great as those previously assumed for a 2°C rise."

The average temperature of my existence has undoubtedly got hotter, also drier since I moved to this city in mid-2013. The canary in the cage has given up trying to warn us, is asking for water... No-one's listening. 

Happy New Year.