Friday, October 27, 2017

The Friday before last

We had rain this week, on Wednesday and Thursday. Not much, but enough to increase my heartbeat.

Today, as I type these words, Woodstock is bathed in rich, bright sunshine and The Mountain is stark, huge before me in the sky. The south-easter is rushing over the top of Table Mountain and storms, batters the few trees and tall palms in this suburb that's sparse of nature, vegetation.

My orphan orchid is alive with three large beautifully speckled flowers; another orchid, also taken home with me for care from somewhere that I forget, is bursting with unopened buds; even now as I look up at the plant I'm expecting it to reveal itself while I blink. It'll be the first time since I took it in that this one will flower.

In between work and marking I've put on a machine wash, guiltily, because of the drought, even though I've got my washing down to a once every two weeks event. The news about the lack of water in the city as the so-called rainy season draws to an end has not been good, although I'm not sure how much of the negativity is a result of politicking. Irrespective, it's not looking good and water is being rationed.

Also, there are still hundreds of metres of razor wire around my university's campuses and heavily armed private security at its entrances. Even so, today, there was an arson attack in the Engineering building.

My plants are thriving in the warmer spring weather.

Tonight I'll get myself off to an art movie at the Labia. I'll take a cup of steaming and aromatic gluhwein and heavily salted popcorn into the cinema with me; it's a Friday night ritual.

Last Friday. I wrote this the Friday before last but forgot to post it.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Beach urchin

It's silent in my home. Except for the strong and constant wind, outside, tearing at the building as if it were a flag or an old sailing ship at sea.

The Mountain is stark and large, also reassuring, against the morning sky. It fills my vision.

The windswept streets of Woodstock are quiet and whimsically sparse as if they were in a typical Western before a shoot-out, sans tumbleweed.

I'm grateful it's not Saturday morning with the usual throngs heading towards the Old Biscuit Mill amidst the shrill, often piercing whistling of self-appointed car guards parking their short-term investments.

I know that it will be good for me to get outside today.

My street urchin of an orchard has three magnificent and hope-inspiring blooms, that have all opened in the last week. Another orchid, that I rescued from someone's sun-beaten patio, is in bud. It's not flowered before under my care and I'm curious as to what the flowers will look like.

I'm on the couch surrounded by the books I'm currently reading, nothing's really holding me, also an empty coffee cup with a sludge of coffee grounds at the bottom; they escaped the French press.

I'm thinking of walking into town, I need to stretch my legs, then on to Nerona's at the top end of Buitenkant street for a chicken salad and chilled glass of chardonnay. And a change in scenery.

I'm hoping that the wind won't be blowing there.

I think back to last Wednesday's dawn walk along Muizenberg's long stretch of beach; I'm sorry now that I didn't take a chance - despite the cold - to swim and to jump-start myself alive again.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

When an owl calls your name

Then in the last of the dusk, with bats silently on the wing, the icy wind stilled, the traffic on the main road that is the peninsula's spine lessened, we walked home in the descended peace alongside the demure lagoon.

I'd missed the last train back to the city and would spend the night here. In a house filled with passionate art, unfinished canvasses on easels, candles and books.

Muizenburg has not an uptight nor pretentious bone to it, although that's not always been the case. Yet, even while I'm told that danger lurks in its streets, I don't feel even slightly threatened, nor at risk. Perhaps it's the heady combination of red wine and the joys of an old and robust friendship that flood my veins, arteries, making me more unhindered than I should, perhaps, be.

I'm excited for the change in my routine that this welcome but unanticipated night in Muizenburg will afford me: other smells, sights, sounds; the moon too is different; another bed; foreign coffee.

While I'd left Vladimir Nabokov's 'Lolita' at my bedside, I had brought along his 'Speak, Memory' for the train ride (I'd finally gotten to Nabokov). Even so, once in the house, Kleinboer's 'Midnight Missionary' grabbed my attention and although I'd been resistant to reading it for years now, I took it to bed.

Also Ryk Hattingh's 'Huilboek'. Hattingh had died earlier in the day of a heart attack, in New Zealand where he and family had relocated to. Merely two week's ago he'd visited SA to collect an award and prize money for this, his latest novel. The novel, in Afrikaans, he had written in-between working as a cobbler and locksmith in Auckland.

My friend, she'd worked with him, recounted stories from his life, their life moments together; this was in-between fielding calls from the small circle of friends who were also recounting shared tales in-between expressing their grief, their loss.

This as my lids slid lower and bed beckoned.

When an owl calls your name...

Friday, October 13, 2017

Salt spray

With a water bottle, my notebook, pen, and my day pack hugging my back I took the southern line train to Kalk Bay late on Tuesday afternoon.

I read for most of the almost hour-long journey, a relaxing and favourite train ride of mine, despite the bad, sad state of our railways

Cappuccino and a slab of carrot cake over my notebook. This while sitting right up against Olympia Cafe's shopfront window. I was avoiding the icy chill of the cold front, which had dumped snow on the mountains in the country's interior.

To sporadically look up from my notebook and cake - with cappuccino foam on my upper lip or nostrils - at the colourful fishing boats in today's quite and docile harbour is another priceless joy.

Then, the only person in the shop other than the bespectacled manageress who peered over the top of her frame when I greeted her,  I wondered around Kalk Bay Books; they've normally got an array of unusual and difficult to find fiction and non-fiction carefully chosen and exhibited on the handful of tables on the shop floor.

On my last visit there were at least six titles I had scribbled on my list and would loved to have purchased. But I didn't have enough money with me for even one. This time, with money in my pocket, there wasn't a single edition of anything that caught my eager eye. That was a first for me.

Then, taking the coastal path between the ocean and the railway line, I walked the approximately four kilometres to Muizenburg: I needed the change of scenery, the tangy saltiness of the Indian Ocean in my nostrils and lungs, also to feel the adolescent summer sun on my skin. Also, the time to process things, me and my life, which walking briskly always seems to coax.

It was good to unwind and to consciously shrug off the anxiety that has been dogging my ankles like a persistent street dog for days now.

I was walking towards a carafe of red wine with old friends in a bohemian bistro/bar in quiet but for the skateboarders York Street: Oroboros. Friends of many years and much water under the bridge; another of life's priceless gifts.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Relatively speaking

How do two-and-almost-a-half months pass without me putting down a single word here? I shy away from here; the desire to remain invisible usurps my desire to be creative, to celebrate life via words and photos: a terrible and constant tension exists within.

I'm long-time returned from Uganda, it was an enormous success on countless levels; I've not written a word about it. Neither here nor anywhere else. Nor have I written a word since in terms of the story ideas that were flourishing in me and my notebooks while I was there, and on the flights back.

Today, I weakly resist bleakness overcoming me... it's the same bleakness inherent in the photo, above, that I took on 27 May. It was the city hall, the side of the library, the autumn trees on a bleary winter's day when the days were drawing in.

Today: It's a magnificent sunny day and the roofs of Woodstock are bright with summery sunshine, there's - unusually - not a breath of air. A woman wearing taut shorts and sandals, her oiled hair glistening (noticeable from even from this far and from this high above) in the sunlight, walks languidly up off one of the roads off Lower Main. She has a plump child fast asleep on her back, tied to her in reverse-Kangaroo style by a bright and cheerful pink blanket. I long to be next to her and her child, feeling the warmth of the late-approaching summer on my face,  on my skin.

Instead, I'm indoors with winter and wearing pyjamas suited to the cold of the last long week; winter is in my heart: I'm again working from home because my university where I teach has been beset by violent student protests, a minority of a minority; there's been attempted arson and the cars of staff have been vandalised. Last night, in the darkness where deeds like these take place, the doors to my department were pulled off their hinges and offices broken into: stuff stolen, glass broken. I've been on campus only three times since 1 September, choosing instead to teach via means other than the luxury of a classroom.

Then there's Trump, Brexit, climate change, the oceans soggy and overwhelmed with plastic, greed, capitalism, consumerism, the extreme and strangling corruption that pervades swathes of our government: billions of rands that could be exchanged for free tertiary education, also that the lives of countless disadvantaged folk could be transformed. Not to mention our deep, cloying and hooded Drought, which stands behind us all with his shining, razor-sharp scythe.

Then, I look upwards so as to count my blessings: I've six buds on an orchid that I rescued from the side of a street dustbin two years ago; before me and up right up tight against my retinas is the magnificent and inspiring Devil's Peak; not to mention that I had an awesome night's sleep in a warm bed; also I'm most gratefully not in the likes of storm-torn Puerto Rico or earthquake-ravaged Mexico City and still have a roof over my head.

It's all relative.

I'm still capable of compassion, kindness and generosity to those less fortunate than me. I can still choose to smile.

Also to make the choice to immerse myself in the miracle of this very day... because the past does not exist and I sure as hell have not an iota of control of tomorrow.