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.