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