Sunday, September 30, 2012

Getting stuff done

Sunday, late afternoon, after a weekend of getting things 'sorted out', readying for my trip into the Great Wide Open. Seven weeks it'll be. Seven, full, weeks. This entails much planning. It's funny, though, the routine grocery-buying, salary-paying, getting enough hand cream, tampons, dog food for two months, suddenly takes on a silvery sheen, a shuddery excitement.

The Big Black Dog is coming with me, she's getting old, I can't leave her. I also can't deny  her the joy of living in a place where she will be free to roam, lead-less, her lungs filled with clear, fresh, air, the sky above her stretching further than she has ever seen.

That sky.

But still, regardless of the silvery sheen on it all, there is much still to be done, I just can't do it now. It's Sunday afternoon, I still suffer (twenty years later) from Sunday Aftenoon Blues, a hangover from boarding school. The dread of going back, hearing the doors lock behind you, leaving the weekend looking forlornly at the closed hostel door.

These Sunday Blues, however, are a lighter blue. More eggshell blue than royal blue, because I have six more working days until I am off for 60 days. Sixty. With that, I give a happy sigh, and get back to my sorting out things, the huge blue sky doing somersaults in my head.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


It was a pretty average Monday afternoon, at 5pm, broad daylight still, on that road, you know the one? That one that snakes off the mountain and flows into the city, past that big shopping centre on the left, it curtsies to The Grand Old Lady before bending to the right. You know that bend? The one with the old cinema that shows art movies, the one named after the princess with the rude name. The cinema next to the gracious old government building, or is it naval?

It’s the one that watches over that intersection, the one with the robots (traffic lights to you foreigners), the robots that lead up the little side street that connects to the other big road that goes all the way up to the mountain and falls down the other side, into the bay. That little side street is the same one with that music shop, you know, that one. The one with the guy who found Rodriguez.

I’m moving too far from where I saw him, though, let’s back up a bit, back to the gracious (naval?) building, the one next to the rude princess’ cinema. It has stairs leading up to it, open onto the street, walled to about chest height at the street level, the walls filled in with grass, I think. It doesn’t matter. It was the stairs that mattered. Well, not the stairs really, more the boy on the stairs, his back pack messily placed next to him, various things scattered about him.

He looked like an average twenty-something year old, almost a hipster, but not quite. I first just saw the tip of his hatted head above the walls of the stairs as we came around the bend after curtsying (sp?) at The Grand Old Lady. The robots were red, so we stopped. I had a chance to look at him properly, to take in his rucksack, to get a glimpse at his face, a good-looking face, I think, I couldn’t see properly because it was bent slightly, a tight elastic band or string clenched between his teeth that led to the top of his arm where it snaked around just below his pushed-up sleeve.

He was concentrating very hard on inserting the needle of the syringe into his vein.

I made G go around the block, and when we passed again, fleetingly this time, as the robots were green, the syringe was gone, but the tourniquet was still there. I wondered if we should stop and release it for him.

A strange coincidence after I’d read American Junkie over the weekend. I’d never before seen a junkie shoot up on a public street in broad daylight and it made me sad. We continued on our way, though, down that side street, past that music shop, you know the one, and on to dinner with old friends, to celebrate their new year. The sadness hovered near the door though, as I hoped he’d find somewhere safe and dry to sleep, even if it was just there, in the doorway of the arthouse cinema with the rude princess’ name. Rain was forecast.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Looking ahead

I was doing well there, for a bit. Getting a post out every day, every second day, and then I faltered. I feel like I have nothing to say, I kept opening new blog posts, even giving them a title and then, breath bated, I sat. Then I berated myself and said: "Shiny, if you have nothing to say, then you'll just have to bloody write about having nothing to say." Feeling suitably shamed by my own beration (is there such a word?), here I am.

I'm counting days until I leave for the great Karoo expanse. I shall be there for almost two months, blessed with large tracts of time during which I have no commitments. None. I plan to do a large amount of sitting on the stoep, maybe drinking beer, maybe reading, maybe watching the donkeys amble by (yes! there are donkeys), maybe chatting, maybe being still and listening, but definitely breathing. Large lungsful of clear Karoo air that make my heart swell.

And then, hopefully, I'll be showered with inspiration to write and I won't feel like I'm dragging myself over here by the scruff of my neck.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

So very, very, excited

I am three days short of a month of the date that will take me to the heart-swelling, inspiration-inspiring place that I long to be. For seven weekd. Seven! That would be thirty three days until I go, give or take. I can hardly contain my joy. Short, simple, truth.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Little girl lost

She is beautiful. She has his cheekbones and is immaculately made up, her hair tightly braided. He wouldn't have liked that, apparently. Rastafarians like their women 'au natural' - no make-up, no hairstyling, just looking as they were made by Jah. I like that, the bit about being natural, not so much the idea that it was forced by the men on 'their' women. I digress, though. There she was, manicured, and talking about him, her father, Bob Marley, in the documentary of his life - Marley - which I watched yesterday.

Her beauty, her perfect manicuring, however, did little to disguise her sadness, which poured out of the screen, a product of parental neglect, still at forty-something utterly tangible. It was as if she just wanted his attention, but never got it.

It's not that he was a bad man, his ideals were good, loving, human and his music, well, we all know his music. He just had no idea how to be a father. It's not surprising in the greater scheme of things, his father was completely absent by the sound of it, a white man having his way with as many beautiful Jamaican women as he wished. And Bob Marley had eleven kids from seven mothers. I never knew that.

It's a fascinating story, about a fascinating man who did incredible things, but it was her, his daughter, that has stuck with me. He was riddled with cancer when he was flown back to Florida from Germany to die. He was only 36-years old as his family gathered at his bedside to bid him farewell.

"I thought then, maybe this time, that I'd get to have my moment with him, just us," she says with barely contained sadness that borders on bitterness. It broke my heart.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Discussions of death

A friend of mine's father died last night. A wonderful, generous, larger-than-life man. He had a massive heart attack and died. Sudden, unexpected, tragic. It got me to thinking about death and dying, again. I know it's inevitable and we don't get a choice in how it happens, but I hope mine's quick. In my sleep even better.

I say we don't have a choice but that's not entirely true - we do, really. I'm a complete believer in the fact that we were given intelligence to allow us to make that choice at any point that we have become tired of life. In my head I would rather make that choice than suffer for a long time with some horrible disease and then go. The real problem lies in the pre-empting of that.

How do you know when it's going to happen? You just don't. I guess that's the eye-opener here. You never know, so one should take note of all those 'Live for today' cutesy postcards that people insist on plastering their Stalkbook walls with. Is it obvious I'm not a fan? But it's the postcards I'm not a fan of, not the sentiment. I've had my brush(es) with death, I know how quickly the world can turn upside-down.

I'm trying to decide if I'm scared of death, it's one of those questions people ask. I don't think I'm scared of death itself but I know I'm petrified of dying, the process. Ug, what a depressing topic for a beautiful Saturday morning in early spring set to a soundtrack of Florence and The Machine.

Let me rather 'seize the day', 'live in the moment', 'dance like nobody's watching' etc, and stop rambling on.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Spring has sprung

And suddenly it's Spring, proper. I love this day of the year. The one when you wake up and it's suddenly lighter, warmer, the birds are singing slightly louder and the air smells of Summer. It makes my tummy do somersaults and my chest swell with joy.

It's today, that day. The day that reminds me that I'm not always a grump, I can actually be quite pleasant, smile, laugh, hell, even be a little bit funny on occasion. Every year during the dark, cold months of Winter I forget this, without fail. It's ridiculous. I've just looked back to last year, this time, and found the exact same rant.

Time for another letter, this time to myself, to be sent around Mid-Autumn next year. Remind me, won't you, please?

Dear Shiny,

You are about to go into the Winter months. I know you are less-than-happy about this but, I'm afraid, there is nothing you can do to stop it other than marrying rich and moving to the Northern Hemisphere for six months and you know how your previous efforts in that arena turned out.

I am writing to warn you that you'll be losing your shine and, perhaps, should change your name from Shiny to Grumpy. Just for the next few months, mind. Remember that after the hibernation period during which you frown a lot and stop making an effort (this year, please, can you at least keep on dying your hair, you're getting older you know!) the sun will come out again, and bring with it your personality. There'll be that day, you know the one you love?

In the meantime, listen carefully... Make a fire as often as possible in the hearth and practice your red wine drinking. It'll be okay, really.

Love always,
Shiny xxx

Hooray for Spring!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Searching for Sugar Man

"He poured petrol over himself and set himself alight on stage."

That was one of the rumours of what happened to Rodriguez, explaining away why we never heard anything about him, despite his haunting music, his beautiful, sometimes political, always meaningful, lyrics. He was the soundtrack to thousands of South African teenage years, from the 70's right through until the 90's, when I was a teenager, and perhaps still. I don't have teenagers, so I can't be sure. We all thought he was recognised worldwide, being from America and all. Apparently not.

One lover of his music made it his mission to find the real story and the movie documents it. He tries to find out who was behind Rodriguez, where he lived, who he was and, in doing so finds many dead ends, a record label who say they 'sold six of his first album in the States.' It's estimated that half a million have been sold in South Africa, thus far. Nobody in the States seemed to know about it, nobody knew where the money went.

And then, they found his daughter. And him. Alive and still working as a construction worker, living in an old decrepit house in Detroit - a city which just looks desolate and slightly hopeless - and he shines. It's as if he's from another world. An absolutely beautiful man, with a voice that makes your blood feel like honey, he's old now but, even in the film, he still shines.

It's hard to put into words exactly what it is about him, he's just so gentle and unassuming and I won't spoil the movie by talking about the end of it because it needs to be watched to be believed. I cried and cried, big, hot, heavy tears, not because it's tragic, it's just so... emotional. See? Struggling to string a proper sentence together about it, to write something that does it justice.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


Every now and again, out of the blue, one meets someone that will alter the axis of one's earth. It is, in my experience, always completely unexpected and absolutely bloody fabulous. Sometimes it's not absolutely bloody fabulous initially, but it always becomes so. I'm not necessarily talking about only lovers or relationships, which always get the kudos for these axis-tiltings.

No, I am talking about the whole range - from a conversation with a stranger in a post office queue that alters your thinking, to the three-day affair with somebody society considers Most Unsuitable, all the way through to the lovers. All of them, the people that shape the way you think, the way you live, the way you love.

As Spring springs here on the tip of Africa and the birds begin a nest-building flurry amidst the sensual fragrance of jasmine twisting through the blossoms, I am reminded of one such creature. Once upon a time, a long time ago now, I fell whirwindingly in love with a Most Unsuitable Boy. I knew right at the beginning that it wouldn't last, that it couldn't last, that my heart would break, but for that short, electric period of time, I didn't care.

And did my heart break? Hell, yes. His too. But we knew it was going to happen, the inevitability of it made the electricity spark and crackle so much more brightly, a will-o-the-whisp amongst a drugdery-filled marsh, a firework display above a void.

Was it worth it? Absolutely. A reminder of a life to be lived, a heart that doesn't live within the confines of an ordinary life, blood pumping strongly through ones veins, air filling ones lungs, under a bright, star-filled sky.