Thursday, March 24, 2011


Surfing has been breaking through our lives for the past seven years or so like a long long set, rolling in. L and I love the sea, as I have said before. One of the first times L went walking at Noordhoek with me and my two children, my little year old girl turned herself to the sea like an iron filing on paper. She stretched out her arms and propelled herself on sturdy chubby legs toward the waves, unfriendly as they are at Noordhoek. Crashing freezing sucking huge. We reset her on a straight course and she rotated again and again towards the foamy magnet.

Our son rode his first waves at Muizenberg while I sat huddled under a towel on the windswept beach, being sandblasted along with some other Moms with flasks of hot tea. L and I paced the shoreline and tried to spot him out at the back line. He was fearless at ten and would ignore our calls and time out hand signals.
JP's leg was taken by a Great White one blue day at Muizenberg just as we pulled out of the parking lot. We missed the sight of it all, the bloody foam, the horror of him on the beach, turning the colour of the sand as his life ran out - nearly.

It was hard to return to the sea after that. Gary from his surf shop on the Muizenberg strip led the children back. He did handstands on his board to lure them back to the fun of it. The sirens rang at every nervous sighting but they had always been there of cause. And are there still, and soon we were surfing under the warning flags flying and the shark spotters declared that from their high point they could see nothing, anyway.

We took a group of boys and boards to surf most Saturdays, and when they were done, they ate hot boerewors rolls that splattered fat over freezing fingers in the back seat of our Cruiser, with hoodies pulled low while their fringes dripped and they talked about waves. And the years passed, with L and me eating beachfront bistro breakfasts and befriending other surfing Moms and Dads. We waited for the children to come, shivering to us, so that we could warm them with hot chocolate and praise (yes we did see you on that was you..yes).

And when we left the Fairest Cape we missed that most - that view from Boyes Drive, of straight white lines on the endless streaky blue sea some days and the surfers (we called them sea lice from up there..)
Of cause L had been one of them a long time ago. I always say I have the photographs to prove it all - the combi, the girl, the dog, the long hair, the surfboard. Some his age are still out there on the waves, all crusty and craggy and still living the kiff life we sometimes dreamt of.

But now we find ourselves in the Garden Route, savouring the delights of Buffels Bay. A hidden place to us before now, that beach has opened up to us like an exposed secret. L and I, we walk almost all the way to Brenton some days, with the hard sand under our heels, and we peer into the high and dry jellyfish wobbling like misshapen crystal balls along the water mark.

Our girl is mostly surfing now, still turned as she was, to the waves. She crouches low and rides long sometimes. We watch them now from the big square deck there, sheltering under the canopy of umbrellas. Our boy hauls out the longboard and rides - still, lean and lazy to the shore.
We watch them as always and they come out and find us for their reward of steaming salty vinegary chips perhaps, or, with the sun beating down, a lime milkshake in a lime green retro glass like a vase.

Sometimes in the heat I grab a boogy board and head on down myself, to be pulled to shore by a foaming breaker. I no longer stay in long enough for the rhythm and rolling of the seas tugging to come back to me, at night before I fall asleep.
But dream I do, of stepping out into liquid, and riding.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Years and tears ago I went for a job interview for a librarian post.

I had no reason other than that I love books ( by the way my friend thinks I don't like Kindles because I do not have one – I am not convinced. I am reading a twenty year old book from the library at the moment – it has thick pages, smells musty and is all out of shape. I love it – it calls to me – its also a Cormac Mc Carthy – so that may have something to do with it. And for those who have gone before a helluva lot of it is in Spanish, so...)

I also wanted to be a librarian because the post was at the Port Elizabeth Library, which I adore. It is an old Victorian building, with Queen Victoria standing in marble outside. It is a cluster of small rooms, two storeys high, ringed round with narrow balconies. I spent hours in there at one time, sitting in the reading room, with all the homeless men taking shelter from the rain, reading newspapers.

I applied for the job, and got an interview. A problem presented itself. At that time I had no decent clothes. I earned my living by waitressing and rented a room in a tatty house, writing most of the day away and working at night. My diet consisted of cigarettes and souvlakia at the restaurant. I walked everywhere. My shoes were down at heel.

I borrowed clothes from my mother for the interview. Her shoes were too small, but I squashed my feet into them. I fought my long, permed hair into a scraggly bun, and, with my 'John Lennon' glasses perched on my nose made my way to the interview. My reflection in the shop windows on the way told me I looked like Barbara Woodhouse, the dog trainer.

I made it through to a final interview – and then – the other girl got it. I was gutted.

A librarian I was never to be, but my love for that library continues and my love of books is relentless. I am a seeker after libraries, and never have been as disillusioned as with a library in a rural town which once spent thousands on a new floor and did not buy a single book. Who, I feel, even notices a bouncy floor when you have a good book in hand.

Walls could fall around me, trains rattle through my station stop, aeroplanes take off...

I suppose I am a reading addict. The sort that reads anything anywhere, any time. It was a difficult day when I could no longer read any label on any product anywhere and so had to join the ranks of the spectacle necklace brigade. I need to read the cereal box while I eat my breakfast, the menu of cause, from cover to cover (even if only drinking a cappuccino),and every ingredient label on any supermarket produce.

I am, anyway a great fan of packaging, and would hate to miss a detail. I am also a loo book reader, and if no book is present, will read the aerosol spray can. I read the bubble bath, the toothpaste, the dental floss – give me a moment to spare and I will fill it with print.

At the moment I am not part of any book club and I adore book clubs.

It's something about the women, the eating, the wine, the book grabbing, the wine drinking, the laughing, the frowning ('you mean you didn't like it...?').

Book clubs are book insurance. You are always covered in an emergency. So is the floor beside your bed normally, because I always took at least three extra 'just in case' books.

The only thing winter is good for I reckon anyway is reading in bed. Warm, but with freezing hands I constantly pat the duvet as I read – I suffer from 'I've lost the bookmark' anxiety. Loosing my place phobia is the only phobia I've got!

But, even though I have no Book Club in Sedge I do have the market.

O yes, and a few marvellous book stalls there are too. My daughter says the owners are not really my friends – they just see money when we approach and that's why they greet us so warmly!

I disagree.

Only a good friend really knows ones taste in books and will point out possibilities. And only a good friend lets one run up a tab like every good bar man who understands need when he sees it – for that book you have to have but have already spent your last rand.

And only a friend will hunt around for another of that one book...that one special book that was there last week and is now sold!

We have piles of unpacked boxes of books and are filling our shelves with new second hand ones instead. How I love someone elses book, with their names scribbled inside, sometimes an address, sometimes a message.

I linger over them for a minute, wandering..

So, Kindles are probably great for aeroplanes and suitcases and travelling light. But this love affair, with musty, dog eared or glossy beautiful fascinating books is an addictive one.

Hope you enjoyed the read!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Just for the record

It started in a small way.
Sedgefield has, in my opinion one of the best markets in the country.
Actually, it has three markets.
We started out at the food market, which serves, again in my opinion, the best cappuccinos on the Garden Route.
That's all it was, in the beginning.

Then we discovered the felafel's ( I dream of Israelis every time I take a bite!)
Then we discovered the cheeses, the olives, the breads..
We enjoyed the French music, the delightful dogs on leads who became like particularly characterful friends because you see them every week.
But it all got rather expensive – and so a change was called for.
We visited the Middle market.

There it also began with just one purchase.
Although I paused for a long while before making my selection, running my hands back and forth along the plastic CD spines. Flip, flap, pick up, put down, whilst calling out to L, or him to me,
'O remember this!'
or, “ This brings back memories,” pausing to savour a flashback so vivid sometimes, it took my breath away. Music does that. Takes me back, to a far away memory, and I can smell, feel, almost touch it all..
I think our first choice was decided by the stall holder, who lures you in by playing some or other CD and puts the cover on display, under a tippex on black plastic sign saying 'PLAYING NOW'
So, we took home Donovan, all mellow and yellow and young.

Of cause, it was not difficult to move from listening to Donovan, stretched out on the couch one lazy Saturday afternoon to thinking about other couches, and other music
We had a room just for my sister and me when we were growing up. We named it 'The Clutta” and celebrated it mostly by playing records. Although it was the late seventies we were about ten years behind in our music tastes – mostly fuelled by 'Bluesway', a record library in Port Elizabeth whose records we borrowed and shamelessly taped.

Oh, and if we really loved something we visited Michael's Record Bar down a sleazy side street off PE's Main Road, where I asked the Afro haired guy behind the counter to spin a record for me, and then joined the other 'hippies' on a couch in a dark corner. We all donned those cool big padded headphones and he was generous, and played the whole record for you sometimes. And you could smoke while he did it, and stub out your stompie in one of the large psychedelic ashtrays.

Those were the days of Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Bread, Patti Smith, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin....
I would listen to them all later, lying on my belly on 'The Clutta' floor and warble along to the words, all printed out, as they used to be, on the record sleeve..

A few years later my best friend at Rhodes came to love old Joni as much as me, but I do remember her squinting at me once, through a haze of cigarette smoke and saying, ' Joni is so cool, and these words are fantastic - but what the f........ is she on about?”

And so that's how, L and I came to buy a turntable last week. From the CD man.
We got talking about all those wonderful records sitting in a tin trunk in storage. We got talking about the extraordinary, and now lost pleasure, of studying record sleeves, many of which are works of art, I think.
We talked about the pleasure of slashing the sealed tight plastic wrap off a new, imported record. Of sliding out the record, balancing the disc between middle finger and thumb, before settling it on the turntable and sending the whole thing spinning... then, watching the stylus touch the vinyl, wobble, wobble ,and there it is. Pure, full sound, washing over you.

We've been doing just that. For the whole of this last week.
Our children are delighted with it all. Our youngest – just thirteen, has become an expert, delicate handler of the magical black discs. They have heard my favourite Joni's a few times now. I find it irresistible to cook by, to warble along to.

The only thing is – was one side always so short? It seems to take the time of chopping one onion, finally sliced. Maybe an onion and a green pepper, finally sliced.

It could be a nuisance, but while the novelty of it all has not yet worn off, my daughter is always available to turn it over. She even likes some of it.
Although it bounces at times. And crackles.
But it feels good – just like James Brown.
Even though I still don't always understand Joni Mitchell.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I have just been to watch 'The Tourist' with Angelina and Johnny Depp. I am particularly fond of Johnny, although, one doesn't really know him as such, does one, as he is always behind some mask or another. The 'Mad Hatter' make up, or crazy Jack Sparrow with four sets of extra eyes, or all emo like in Edward Scissors hands.

In The Tourist he presents his real face - I think - but without giving too much away - we don't really know that because....

But I digress. The real reason for me going all the way to George, to the Big Screen was.....Venice.

Glorious Romantic Enigmatic The Last Place To See Before You Die - Venice.

I have a bit of an Italian thing going on at the moment. It started a while ago, with my good friend Jamie, who I took a virtual cookery tour of Italy with. L fed the relationship when he bought me the 'Jamies Italy' cookbook for Christmas...and my food has had an Italian flavour ever since.

A good friend once commented that, no matter what our financial circumstances are we always have a good bottle of Olive oil . Its true, I have fed the family solely from our vegetable garden at times, but those veggie roasts were always a feast - because of olive oil. The Italians, naturally , know that, a couple of tomatoes, a medley of peppers, a zucchini complete with gorgeous yellow flower, a good glug of olive oil... Voila!

I have noticed that it is also a phase Hollywood seems to be going through at present. A lot of films are being shot in Europe. Bored, no doubt, by the pace and face of Manhattan and other city scapes they have swapped all that modernity for Tuscany, Provence or the ancient, cobbled, scooter driven lanes of the Old World. Like Venice.

Or Rome.

I watched Eat Pray Love the other day. I thought I was going to enjoy Julia Roberts (always been a fan) , but as it turned out it was Rome that captivated me. Rome and the Italian language, the gestures that accompany it, the food, arriabatta, carbonara, spaghetti, pizza, puttenesca,minestrone...tiramisu!
La Convivialita!

A language of foodie love making. Sensual. Indulgent. Excessive.

I have been teaching my son all about the Renaissance. Italy is conspiring to captivate me with its allure at every turn. Michelangelo, da Vinci, Donatello, Raphael...and on and on. We pour over photos of painted ceilings, that huge exquisite David, those multiple complex sketches of helicopters and other contraptions, way before their time in that one Italian mind.

I teach him Drama also and of cause it has to be Romeo and Juliet, and so am I thinking of passion, tragedy, and the masked balls .....
Italia is everywhere I look!

The last straw was a wedding.

Family of L made their way to Mossel Bay the other day. A wild girl women, once a rebellious family member, now a serene and beautiful, elegant woman was to wed. And her groom, complete with an entourage of brothers, sisters and children, was to fly in.
And of cause, they all are Roman, those to-be in-laws. When we met, the first thing I thought was that the children (adolescents) had skin like alabaster. They had dark hair, dark eyes, a little English and dispensed kisses, left, right, left....I was enthralled.

The wedding vows were on the beach, and we were all dressed in white, or the colours of the sand, and the gazebo wedding bower was strung with shells. A pod of dolphins blessed us all with some foamy surfing tricks, just as the vows were said.

There was a posse of paparazzi cellphones, and in some photos the Italian groom was strung with vine like seaweed and shells. I thought he might be like Neptune or some other Roman god.

Later in the Restaurant shack, tottering on the dunes, we ate seafood with a mussel shell, and the blonde bride and her dark haired man put on Swing and danced it for us, barefoot.

There was an orange moon that came up over a purple and turquoise sea and all, like statues holding cellphones aloft, recorded it all.

But not me.

I watched, from the shadows, attired also all in Roman white, while those children,with names like Renaissance painters, flitted like moths in cream and white lace and kicked off their shoes and danced ...

So, all this has been good for Steves Trattorio in Sedgefield. It's the closest I can get right now to Italy. It has da Vinci sketches on the wall and the most excellent pasta and pizza.

We drank wine there the other day with our meal and made plans to go. Dreamy plans to go to Italy. Soon. To trawl the galleries and canals in gondalas and to eat and be merry.

La Dolce Vita!