Monday, April 25, 2016
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
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
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.
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
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.