Saturday, February 26, 2011


The children were meant to be in school this year. I was totally convinced of that. I cheerily gave away every last home school resource I had, convinced that the season of homeschooling was over. We had all done a year of 'normal schooling' and it seemed that that was going to be the way for the years to come.

Without going into all the heart rending, nail biting, stress inducing, confusing and seemingly chaotic events that led to us approaching the start of the first day of school, and it passing us by...

The end result is us at home again - unprepared, unequipped, unhappy at times, and less anxious as each day goes by.

Leap - and the net will said....

A friend of ours told a heart stopping tale the other day, about how, as he approached Port Elizabeth he spotted, out of the corner of his eye, as he sped over the Van Stadens Bridge, on the other side of the road, on the outside of the bridge, a woman, hardly hanging on, leaning out, over the terrifying abyss.

I remember the little details he related about the encounter. Her neatly placed size seven sandals, left side by side on the side of the road. Her bare feet on tip toe, balanced on a pipe on the outside of the bridge. Her hands, her mere fingertips, hardly holding on to the railing, supporting her body as she leaned out and away.

He tells how he ran to her, and while the police kept back the onlookers, the hooters, the jeering passing motorists, he spoke to her for two hours. Two hours of begging, pleading, weeping, whilst she, nonchalantly, adjusted her grip and looked out and over, as if already committed to the jump.

After two hours he, and two policemen hauled her over.To safety.

He had been the net for her that day, there being no physical one that could ever have saved her.

So, that story reminds me of how I felt at first, when the abyss of homeschooling opened again before me. Terrifying, and yet inevitable. It was calling me towards it, dangerously, destructively and unavoidably.

God does that sometimes. He closes every other door, so that the only open one has got to be Him. He is the open door. Even if it feels as wide and open as a gigantic chasm yawning around us as we hang on by our finger tips.




And He will catch you, one way or the other.

Even if it is being caught up in the air before the hard rocks hit as they come rushing up to meet you.

It is extraordinary how things work out if you listen. If everyone around you is aware, catching that fatal glimpse out of the corner of their eye, and stopping, running over, to extend that helping hand.

People are on the look out for us, like a highway patrol, and as we await the arrival of our curriculums, we have in the meantime a standard of education that we have not had for years.

The net appeared, and we are safe.

Every day is that 'leap of faith' -which is of cause not one at all.

Carl Jung said - I no longer believe - I know.

So lets do it - JUMP

Thursday, February 17, 2011

To be of Service

Here in our new home we are in the service industry. We are cleaning pools. The business belongs to a friend and L is working with him.
L is a technology man. A screen man. A friend called him the 'computer whisperer' He has a deep, clear, intimate knowledge of what makes a computer what it is. He has that with dogs too. I never thought that computers and dogs had anything in common - but lately I have changed that view. L understands both intimately, and I always thought was never happier than with dog beneath him and a screen before him.

Until now, that is.

Until I saw him doing pools.

It is summer now of cause, and that does help.

Most of the pools are on the rich side of town. A place where the houses are situated on the sides of fynbos covered dunes with views of the white and blue sea. The pools are mostly of the rim flow variety and if you lie on your lounger, and blink your sunglassed eyes to the horizon, the edge, the very edge of your infinity pool blends with that view beyond. I suppose.

To the pool man rim flow pools are trouble. They collect algae and are mostly inaccessible. They cling to the edge of cliffs and are threatening to life and limb, as you balance precariously on the edge, hanging onto the brush pole like some flapping sail in the breeze.

Pump rooms too, we have noticed, are built as an afterthought, for midgets, or other circus acrobats who are double jointed and can manage to remove sand from the filter, with head down, posterior to the ceiling and one leg in the air, because there simply is no room for it in the room.
One day, with my neck ringed round with the bright blue coils of the vacuum hose my daughter declared that I looked like a model of alternative fashion. Edgy pool haute couture. Pool punk fusion fashion. I think of it every time I negotiate the steep slippery marble steps down to some pool, with swinging bucket and pipe necklace like some ramp model on acid.

The sea is in the reclaim business. I note that whilst waiting, dip stick in hand, whilst L calculates quantities and mixtures in buckets. There is rust to be found on the metal furniture, left alone outside the shut up houses, and work for the maintenance man in leaking downpipes and peeling and warping wood work. Plenty of work for those in service. In fact, at this time of year those are the only vehicles to be seen on that side of town. The pool man, maintenance man, garden man, domestic services, electrical services, builders. It keeps us all busy, our small vehicles struggling up and down the paved dune roads, laden with an assortment of gear.

The temptation is there some days to fall, headlong into one or other cool swimming pool, when the sun is beating down and burning as we splash our way with chlorine and acid and purifiers and sand and salt. We never do. The pools all overlook each other in order to overlook the sea. They jostle for position in their quest for location, location, location.

The lagoon will do for me.

When I stay at home our son accompanies L and they work hard side by side, mostly in silence, as most men do. But they come home hungry and brown and tired.

My husbands hands smell of chlorine when they find the keyboard again. His shorts are damp here and there. White dots are appearing on his t-shirts and his face is sun burnt.

He's happy, he says, squinting into the sun, with dripping hands, as he reads the colour of the water, lying there, squinting back at him.

The Pool Whisperer.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Four Aunties and a Funeral

There are some members of my family that I have not seen for thirty years.

Thirty years!

Lately that number has been coming up a lot. I am forty eight, so thirty years ago I was just eighteen.

It was the end of school, the beginning of Rhodes.

It was 1981 and the state of emergency.

It was Detention without trial.

It was a time of hiding the Freedom Charter and pictures of Mandela.

It was a time of dancing to Ska till the security police came, kicking down doors and shouting in our young peachy faces.

It was a time of sitting cross legged, long haired and learning to roll our own.

And for me it was a time of turning away from Aunties and Uncles and family Christmas conversations about Blacks and Reds and Coloureds and Kaffirs and dying a red death in a dark bed.

As a smaller girl I had looked up to them all. They were a particularly raucous bunch of South Africans and 'Rhodesians' who descended to the beach for the summer holiday. They gathered in groups and braaied and drank and partied.

No New Years Eve ever has lived up to those. I remember bowls of upturned trifle on an Aunties head, green hose pipes spraying water through windows, everyone in the pool at midnight and hooting loudly whilst slurring the words of Auld Lang Syne.

I was in awe of the Aunties, smoking endless cigarettes, shrouded in a gray haze,with long painted fingernails, perms and streaks. The Uncles gathered in a different smokey cloud of braai burning, sunburnt bellies,and tall chilled glasses of beer. I avoided them, especially the one with a wandering hand which once crept up under the edge of my adolescent denim shorts!

By eighteen we had all had enough and our branch of the clan dropped off the family tree. The rest grew on, flowered in unattended weddings, blossomed at baby baptisms, and shivered with the winters of funerals. I was absent from all.

Until last month.

Most of the spouses of my mothers siblings have passed away, but it was only last month that her oldest sister, with a life of eighty odd years, well lived, passed away. The remaining family was gathering, not far down the road, in Port Elizabeth.

My mother, drugged up to her eyeballs (she has a fear of crying, flying, lifts, buses..) stumbled off the bus into my home. We completed the journey together, L and me and my parents...

Here in Sedge lives one of my oldest friends.We have thirty years of friendship under our belts. We have allowed our hair to go grey together and have given up smoking (a long time ago). Nowadays we spend time contemplating each others' children, because it all seems so sudden and so slow that so much has happened to us somehow.

So, grey haired and hanging onto my courageous L we swept into the church foyer. My mother, still drugged, was steaming ahead, keen to see, leaving my frail father concerned with keeping up, with a desire to comfort. I took him under my greying wing, and down the aisle we swept. My mother was lost, almost blindly feeling her way down the aisle, towards the coffin, covered and waiting.

So some turned, and their faces were hazy to me, like sketches rubbed out and drawn over with a deeper line. Some stood, and they met my eyes.

'Carol,' said some, to me - my mothers' name.

They realized their mistake almost immediately, as I gathered my mother in, propped her up,and propelled her towards them.

I was her, was the realisation that came to me. Thirty years ago, when she was forty eight.

So what does it all mean?

A slight crises.

Pilates classes and a decision to not go grey just yet.

A happy trip to the hairdresser.

Oh yes.

A decision to seize the day again, and again.

To not take one precious intake of breath for granted.

To treasure time.

To forgive everything.

To remember the good.

To love.

To live.

I guess its just another midlife crisis.

So what's a Slow Town?

Sedgefield officially is - a slow town that is. I saw a photo of a man with a certificate from some place overseas. The gist of it is, Sedge entered, qualified and got it.

I thought Joubertina was pretty slow. Twee Riviere more so. They were so slow in fact that I got into the habit of never wearing a seat belt, never stopping at stop streets - just a gentle pause on the brakes, and through we go.

At first I did that in Sedge. I soon stopped, especially in the Silly Season with all those GP number plates.
They are not slow, although having said that many was the time when I found myself trapped behind an abandoned GP SUV in the carpark road whilst family members unloaded, loaded, disembarked, chatted and ignored everyone else - very slowly. They had embraced Sedgefields status whoeheartedly, and who can blame them really - they only have two weeks.

Sedge has a different kind of slow.

Slow has something to do with the tortoises. There are many around, some real, some not. Some are huge and mosaiced, some huge and emblazoned with the South African flag, outside the tourism office.
The Island is an unofficial tortoise sanctuary. I lived there once, and exceeded 30kms on the gravel roads sometimes. Frantic residents ran out often, waving at me to slow down. My dust was landing on their rose petals. I had a babysitter waiting - and I've never squashed a tortoise yet. And I did slow down.

Thats what Sedgefield forces you to do. Slow down.

Speed cops hide beneath trees all season long on the N2. Cameras are almost permanaently in place. The slowness gives you time, as you saunter down that particular strip of N2 to admire the worst part of Sedge. The shop fronts. And the row of horses/zebras that surely everybody knows. They stand in an arty row, frozen for many years now, looking good for their age.

Now that only the locals remain,they breathe a sigh of relief that the GP drivers have sped off and having spent cash like lottery winners the town can survive til next time.

Sedge locals rarely speed off anywhere, and anyway we can't afford to. So generally we cruise around, with our windows down, sunburnt arm on the sill, a warm breeze ruffling our hair. Why seal yourself in a bubble of aircon when the air is filled with african aromas of the sea and fragrant fynbos.

There is the adrenalin fuelled side of Sedge. Which isn't slow at all. Kiteboarders skimming over waves, surfers gliding in to shore, paragliders leaping off Cloud Nine. Thats another signature of Sedge, those paragliders hanging about the hill most days. I counted thirty up there one day, just dangling.

When all the extreme sport is said and done though things do seem to slow down a bit. I mean, who has the time to hang out in the sky most of the year, or surf in the middle of the day. Or sit around the beach restaurant with their bare feet dug deep in the sand, drinking beers?
What work does anyone do around here? Whatever it is, I guess we do it slowly.

There is always time to relive the moment just one more time, to tell the tale of that big wave, and share a slow smile, a chuckle.

There is a love song about a 'slow hand', a caress. Thats it for me. The wind through your hair, a sip of something cold, the sun on your face.
Life that caresses your senses.

Slowly does it.