Women’s March: Respect Existence or Expect Resistance

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We all knew it was coming, the inauguration of a sexist, racist, homophobic, misogynist (and the list goes on) president of the USA. I’ve been avoiding the news since he won the election, unable to bear his bullying and nonsensical tirades. I’ve been thinking-hoping that something would happen, that this was all some kind of huge prank, an exposé of the terrifying influence of modern/social media, of the society we find ourselves living in: its falsities and empty-headed idolatries; its botoxed, plastic-surgeried mask; its duck-faced inanity.

On Friday, I broke my media blackout and watched the inauguration, hoping that this would be the Big Reveal, that Trump would come out, preferably in a clown outfit, and shout: “It’s a hoax! This was just an experiment to show the horrifying ease with which fear can be harnessed to lead a huge population of people over a cliff into the sea.”

But, no.

And so it was that I headed into the city yesterday morning to join hundreds of women (and men and children and some hounds) to support the Women’s March in Washington DC, because we absolutely cannot sit back and allow hatred and greed and prejudice of pretty much every kind ever given a name, to win.

It was hot and sweaty, but marching in Cape Town is pretty much a walk in the park, literally. After gathering in front of the museum, we headed down Government Avenue, watched by the old trees and stately buildings that line the path through the Company’s Garden. There could’ve been more people. There should’ve been more people. And more diversity. But that’s a thought for another day, because this blog is about showing support, building a resistance. We had gathered together to say no, and therein lies the power of the collective.

I only truly comprehended that later, the power in numbers. Seeing footage of all the other sister marches across the world, and the main Washington one, I was astounded. We were a few hundred, but with the marches across the world, we were millions. We are millions.

Millions of people who are saying no, not on our watch.

No.

Crumpled Sheets Under a Full Moon

limpopoI am a true child of Africa. My blood is thin and I can’t cope with the cold or skies that are too small. Put me in London in winter – which I love for its history, its energy, its beauty, the tube – and after three days I’m as claustrophobic as if you’d tied me up and put me in a box in a cupboard.

And that’s why I love this time of the year. Mid-Summer. The time of sleeping under a sheet only, the windows wide open to let in any whispers of a breeze that’ll chase the sticky air away. It’s sweaty and sultry and hot sleep is filled with wild dreams, waking with crumpled sheets and crazy hair.

It’s the time of hot white skies cooling to blue before melting into inky black, the Evening Star blinking and – right now – the full, fat moon pulling at the sea and adding a good dollop of madness to dreams.

The voluptuous moon keeps me awake, her silvery tendrils lighting up those crumpled sheets. Now that I don’t have to wake early to get to the Ivory Tower, I relish my time in the moonlight, as stories flit around in my head and fly out of the window.

As hard as I try, they keep slipping out and dissolving into the hot night.

Oh, George

Remember just last week, when I was telling 2016, all dressed up in its Grim Reaper suit, to bugger off? No way, it just keeps on going, waving it’s bloodied scythe about.

George Michael was my first crush, ever. The second was Morten Harket. I longed for a t-shirt that said either ‘Choose Life’ (and this was years before Trainspotting) or ‘Go-Go’, to wear with my pink joggers with white piping. I must’ve been about ten. I bought the casette of Make It Big at the Carletonville OK, and flicked through the poster holders each time I went with my mother, hoping they’d have got in a Wham! one. They never did. Sigh.

I knew all the lyrics to Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go (and have just discovered, on listening to it now, that I still do. The brain is a marvelous creature); I longed to go and find the fun and sunshine at Club Tropicana; Christmas songs suddeny got cooler when they brought out Last Christmas; and Careless Whisper was the soundtrack to many beautifully mortifying pre-adolescent slow dances at discos held in various garages in and around Carletonville.

Then we grew up, and so did he, and our joggers and tie-on roller skates were discarded in the corner and my musical tastes wandered off to a slightly darker, dingier club than Club Tropicana. I fear George Michael ambled into a much darker one than mine, but he continued making music, singing, being brilliant.

Fast forward to around the turn of the century (oh, wow, I can write that, and it applies! Good grief). I’m in another dingy bar (I’m a fan), and it’s karaoke night. Nini, one of my favourite people on earth, takes her turn, and belts out Faith, and I am reminded of the man’s talent. And hers, of course. Now that I think carefully, it may not have been her. She always does I Want To Break Free. No matter, the details are secondary. I met George Michael again that night. He was a consummate song writer, and his music weaved in and out of my life’s soundtrack (and millions of others). Our memories melt into ghosts, as time goes on.

By all accounts, he’s had a rough time over the years. I hope that’s just the horrible popular media rumour mill with its hiss and claws, and that his last time on this crazy earth was happy. And although my fandom dwindled as my age increased, he will always be my first crush and there’s nothing quite like a 10-year old’s crush. And now he’s gone.

I hope he’s doing the Jitterbug as we speak.

Now, seriously, 2016, GO(-GO), and don’t bother waking us up before you do.

Summer Holiday Nostalgia

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As children we were fortunate to have a house at the seaside*. A shack, really, that to me was a palace beyond palaces. It was four rooms. Five, if you counted the bathroom that sat in the garden, a scary-when-you’re-9-years-old five metres away, out of the back door and through the dark. The front door opened into the lounge which opened into my sister and my room which opened into the kitchen, off which my parents’ room was. It was the perfect holiday house.

It was a palace beyond palaces to me, to us, because it was at the seaside. Not on the sea, with views across the ocean, not one of those rambling fake-Spanish monstrosities that started popping up along Beach Road, in the late 80’s, guzzling the aromatic bush, all glass and soulless, no. But it was at the seaside.

Set in the cluster of houses next to town in Port Alfred, where the river bent, we could walk to the beach, or the river, and the air was salty and slightly clammy and, in the house, when we first opened it up on arrival, it smelt like grass mats and damp wood and holiday.

And it was at the seaside which, for us who lived in dusty gold-mining towns over a thousand kilometres from the sea for the other 46 months of the year, was heavenly. And it made that shack a palace in our eyes. And it was. We were extraordinarily privileged to have it, to have those blissful, barefoot summer holidays.

Every year, when schools closed, our parents would pick my sister and me up, the car packed so tightly with tiny bags (summer: we needed only our costumes, a couple of t-shirts and shorts, one light jersey for ‘in case’ and a pair of flip flops to protect our feet from the duiweltjies that would’ve run riot in the garden all year), my mother’s sewing machine, boxes of plums and peaches from our garden on the mine, and the dog. My sister and I would exchange our school uniforms for t-shirts and shorts on the back seat, stuffing them under the car seats not to be seen or thought of for the next six weeks.

We’d eat digestive biscuits with triangles of Melrose cheese squashed on them as we drove over the dam wall, leaving the Free State behind us and entering the Eastern Cape. We’d stop to stretch our legs and walk across the dam wall, leaning over the edge as the water thundered and our hair flew above our heads.

The Eastern Cape has held my heart since those early days. Perhaps it was genetically passed down to me, from my parents who had loved it from their varsity days, and my grandparents before them. I didn’t realise then that I, too, would go to varsity there, and the Eastern Cape would entwine itself around-and-in-and-through my heart more than I thought possible.

Then, though, in my childhood days, that little house was a palace, the place of sandy feet and salty skin; the Treats Drawer (second from the left) that smelt like Christmas fruit cake and chocolate bars; our iron beds made with a sheet and a brown storm blanket that squeaked and squawked and gave us the best sleeps ever; morning swims on Kelly’s Beach, us the only ones there so early; sundowners and picnic suppers on the jetty at the end of the road; the friendly librarians at the library with its puzzle on the huge table always on the go; the smell of the Christmas tree; the sound of my Mother sewing ‘secrets’ late at night, a shaft of light thrown into our room from the kitchen; my Dad collecting mussels at Riet River; of walking behind him on the beach, stretching my legs so that my footsteps could match his 6 foot, four ones.

It was a palace filled with delight.

*Seeing everyone’s gorgeous holiday pictures, I got all reminiscent (and I’m working the night shift tonight, so it’s a good time for some writing.)

Enough, 2016

img_5589As 2016 limps to an end, still wearing its Grim Reaper outfit, because it just can’t be bothered to get out of it anymore, I was staring out of my window and thinking. This is not unusual, I do that a great deal. Mostly when I should be working. But I was thinking about 2016, specifically, and reflecting on all the souls it’s taken. It’s been relentless in the world.

It’s as if 2016 arrived, looked around, and thought ‘I know! I’m going to dress up as The Grim Reaper today.’ And then it did, and it got all into the role playing and started knocking off people, left, right and centre, starting with David Bowie. 2016 seemed to like the power, so a few days later, it took Alan Rickman. Ferociously talented, brilliantly clever, much-loved people. And then it thought to itself ‘Hell, I think I’ll just stay in this outfit for a bit longer’, and took Prince in April.

In June, it swanned in in its Grim Reaper suit and killed Mohamed Ali, then just a couple of weeks later, as the Brits started getting all excited about summer coming and exposing their English Rose skins to the sun in parks everywhere, 2016 arrived and stomped shared humanity into the pavement, leaving behind it a trail of Brexit despair.

In August, Gene Wilder.

In October, still loving its fancy dress getup, it tripped up Pete Burns and stopped him spinning around, once and for all. And then November came, and I hoped that 2016 would drop its Grim Reaper outfit and put on a Star Spangled Banner pant suit.

Nope. It sharpened its scythe and killed common sense and inclusiveness. And as if Trump winning wasn’t enough, it took poet extraordinaire, genius lyricist and musician Leonard Cohen, leaving me sobbing. And then it took Fidel Castro, AA Gill and everybody’s favourite TV dad, Alan Thicke. And that was just (some of) the celebrities. Celebrities that lived well, who had it easy, comparatively.

I write about them because I can’t bring myself to write about all the human tragedies and atrocities that 2016 has thrown out or the one that is, by far, the most horrific of them all. The one that is happening as I sit here, while the world watches and does nothing. Aleppo. The attacks on the innocent, unnamed and ferociously neglected souls that 2016 is claiming, now, in that shelled city of hell. I don’t know enough about it to make any comment on the politics, but I know enough from a human point-of-view to know that what’s happening is tragic in the biggest sense of the word, and equally horrific.

Good grief, 2016, it’s time for you to bugger off and take your Grim Reaper outfit with you. Please. And everybody else? The only thing to do is love. We’re going to have to love each other out of this. And if, like me, you’re feeling helpless about Aleppo, where ‘loving each other out of this’ is not nearly enough, Gift of the Givers are doing incredible work in Syria and need donations.

Do it with love.

Don’t mind if I do, Darling

img_0742As I’ve said on numerous occasions, I’m a small town girl and being in the city (even though I live in it and love it) for too long creates all sorts of claustrophobia that makes me Not Very Nice. It is because of this that it’s a good thing for the world in general, that I make regular trips away from the clogged roads and peopleness of the cities.

Thanks to my occasional blogging for What’s On In Cape Town (see my piece here), the perfect opportunity came up – a little jaunt to Darling, for the inaugural Darling Summer Beer Festival at the ‘new’ Darling Beer Tasteroom and Brewery. I say ‘new’, because it was also the first anniversary of their new premises. And what a celebration it was.

So off we went, packing the newest member of The House in the Middle of the Street – Tinks, the labrador – and us into The Silver-Winged Unicorn, stopping first to show Tinks the sea for the first time (what joy!) and bump into a lovely old friend walking with her just-as-lovely Mum and sweet baby. Once cooled by the sea and sustained by some delicious tapas at Damhuis in Melkbos we ambled along the road to Darling.

Darling is a quaint town, with an even-more-quaint name, and the Darling Brewery – just over the train tracks and down a dust road in the ‘industrial’ part of town – gives added dimension to a town that offers an incredible number of things to do, despite having a population of only 10 000.

After meeting up with one of my oldest friends, SJ, we dropped our things at The Granary and off we headed to the brewery.

Saturday was hot and blue-skied and the summer wind was howling, blowing up the dust from the road leading to the brewery and almost blowing us over getting out of the car. It was perfect beer drinking weather. In the grounds of the brewery there was plenty of shade and shelter in the form of two Bedouin tents, all set about with hay bale seating and pallet tables. There’s a kid’s jungle gym in the garden of the brewery that’ll ellicit squeals of happiness from every and any child.

Felix, the fabulous brewer who we’d met on our previous visit, decked out in lederhosen, welcomed us and introduced us to his two friends visiting from Germany, and so an afternoon of chilled beer, relaxed vibes and great company began.

It being a beer festival, there was plenty of beer to be had. Served icy cold, all of Darling Brewery’s favourites were available – the Bone Crusher, Sun Gazer and Gypsey Mask, to name just three – and also their new lager, the Blood Serpent, Africa’s first carbon neutral beer, how fabulous! To get into the festive spirit, a glass of the seasonal Red Goblin was just the ticket. Inspired by the Samango monkey, it has subtle overtones of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and ginger.

There were guest brewers and bands playing and food being cooked and eaten (including some of the best spare ribs I’ve ever tasted. Unfortunately I forgot to take note of the name of the stall. Fall-off-the-bone, juicy marinade, lip-smacking stuff). [Edit: I’ve been informed the rib spectacularity was from The Flying Pig. Look out for them and, if you’re lucky enough to be near them … eat their ribs!] I liked the ‘braaibroodjies with a twist’ idea, too. And the best thing about it was the wonderfully mixed crowd of both locals and visitors to Darling. City pretension had not been allowed through the gates, and it made my heart soar.

An entire paragraph must be dedicated to Darling Sweet’s toffees. Orange and pomegranate toffee. It’s the stuff of dreams. Dreams, I tell you. You have to stop and be still when you eat it, because it’s a taste explosion that I’d imagine Willie Wonka would’ve made, had he made toffees and not chocolate. Sublime.

After making friends with a local farmer’s wife who, it turned out, is the cousin of one of my neighbours and one of my favourite people in Nieu Bethesda (how small the world is) and a wonderful young guy who explained the process of bottling with a passion I’ve not seen often in people about their careers, we headed off to sit on our stoep and watch the spectacular sunset and quaff wine while talking Saturday Sundowner Talk.

Perfect small town soothing for a city-dwelling small town girl, thanks Darling.

This One Goes Out To The One(s) I Love: Twenty Years

It was the 1st of December, 1996, at about 9 am. The sky was that blue that only a perfect Karoo summer’s day can produce, stretching across the landscape from outside Cradock to what felt like forever. Underworld’s Born Slippy played (this may, or may not be true, time dissolves and distorts memories, but I like this one and it’s a great song, so I’m going to keep it. It was the year Trainspotting came out. Ewan McGregor. Swoon) as we slipped off that road and rolled, the sound of metal crunching playing in my ears until it stopped sudddenly, replaced by silence. The car was right-side up and I could see blood on the windscreen. I wasn’t sure whose it was.

It is now the 1st of December, 2016. That is twenty years later. Twenty years that have slipped through my fingers like mercury. I won’t be blithe and deny that there haven’t been times that I’ve screamed with frustration, but who hasn’t? It doesn’t take a wheelchair to make frustration.

No, it’s been twenty years just like all of your twenty years, filled, in different proportions for each of us, with happiness and sadness, ill-advised love affairs and love affairs that were transluscent in their delight, oodles of normalcy, sharp spikes of hurt that I thought I’d never recover from, but did, Ghost Pops and cake and champagne with bubbles that delighted, moments of such beauty that they left me breathless and moments of darkness that left me gasping and, over-riding it all, the love of so, so many people.

I am lucky, I do know this. So lucky. I broke that day, but my people tied me together again, with tiny bows of love and ribbons of care and kindness. Four months later I went to graduation (as I’d promised my disbelieving doctor I would, in those first few weeks of getting put back together again). I may have broken my neck, but I sure-as-hell didn’t break my stubborness. I hope I never do.

And still now, twenty years later, I am kept together by my lovely family and friends. The people who’ve known me for forever and those who have known me not-for-forever, those who I see regularly in Real Life, those I only see sometimes, and those who I see only online.

You are my people. You keep me tied together.

You bloody rock.