Sunday, October 28, 2018

Psychogeography of paths less taken

This is the secret path that I take back from UCT's Upper Campus at the end of every Friday, as day bleeds into the evening. The walk down the mountain slope from campus each week is a treasured time for me.

The path is verdant in its spring beauty. Cloying scents hanging in the heat-heavy air from blooms I don't yet know, the wonderful heady reek from the wild jasmine, orange and yellow nasturtium flowers and in stark contrast their perky and pretty pond-round green leaves.

Orange butterflies, some white-winged ones too.

I love to peer into the gardens and sometimes open windows of these big old houses that belong to another era. They back quietly onto this pathway.

Hardly anyone uses the path. I'm grateful for the peace, the quiet, the solitude after the busy, rowdy campus. And it's good to be wearing shorts.

What's also good is my sense of accomplishment at the end of this particularly productive day; it's a sense that's never guaranteed even if a full day's work lies behind me. The sense of productivity is an erratic one. It's also one I never take for granted.

The path ends in the exclamation mark of the bustle and honking minibus taxis on Main Road, Rondebosch:
Students buying groceries in Pick 'n Pay for the weekend. Also cardboard boxes full of booze for the night.
Strategically placed beggars - at the shopping centre entrance and hovering-like-flies outside McDonalds, Nandos and KFC - are jovial and overflowing with the weekend vibes.
Working folk stamping their feet, wanting to get home to their families.
Countless delivery scooters and bikes parked on the pavements, but revving and ready to drop off takeouts bought via mobile phone apps.
End of day traffic exacerbated by the heat.
Exhaust fumes from aggressively blunt and blundering Golden Arrow buses, exacerbating the heat.


Today, Sunday, as I type these words I'm naked (from the last few days' heat) at my desk. I've not worn any clothes since Friday night. It's a summer sun outside, not a spring one. It has bleached what should have been bright morning sunshine from both the day and from Woodstock.

Summer is here early and is pushing at Spring's envelope, which I resent.

Too hot. Too much sun. Too dry. Too uncomfortable to negotiate if one's mostly on foot as I am. This is not my favourite time of year.

However, on Tuesday night I leave for Hannover, Germany on a lecturer exchange where I look longingly forward to the autumnal dankness of northern Europe.

The complete change in scenery, also the thrill of the psychogeography - the intersection of psychology and geography - excites me. 

I thrive, always, on my psychological experiences of cities, especially ones I don't yet know. It not only illuminates and reveals to me the forgotten, discarded, or marginalised aspects of the urban environment I'm losing myself in, but simultaneously - like a mirror - allows me the not always satisfying opportunity to reflect, to look backwards over my shoulder at the urban environment I've left behind me at home. 

No comments: