Sunday, April 12, 2015

The season of the butterfly.

In Fish Hoek this morning,
the fog is so thick that I can barely see the houses over the road.
The garden rustles and drips.
A bulbul darts in and out of the eugenias.
Rhubarb stems have turned rosy overnight.

The aloes are in bud and yesterday the sweet smelling tree in the driveway was aflutter with butterflies.

Out at the farm the yarrow patch was covered in drifts of lilac butterflies, each one tinier than my pinkie nail.

My work continues to take me to far flung places. I see them in their autumn glory. This week past I have spent time in Ottery, Lotus River and Philippi. There are mosques and veiled ladies and rastas on bicycles. I met a vegetable gardener admiring his butternut blossoms. I met a fierce squirrel hunter.

At the Klip Road cemetery gates on friday, I saw two fishermen selling snoek from their wide old pick up trucks. On saturday it was a rusty blue El Camino laden with flowers.

Easter came and went. We woke and found a Dutch still life in the kitchen. There was Lamb With A Spoon - every last flake and morsel of shank bone marrow devoured.
Apple and plum crumble soon suffered the same happy fate.

I find myself more depleted after every film I work on. There is little to love about going to work with a lump in your throat, lying awake at night worrying about things that are - in the grand scheme of life, so very superficial.

It took a day of visiting greenhouses and nurseries to remind me how calm and happy these places make me. Outside Stellenbosch, at Bridget Kitley's organic herb nursery, you walk on flagstones that tilt and splash. Bees buzz overhead.
The people who work there do so barefoot and muddy. 
A small striped frog landed on my foot for a second and made me laugh.
Then sigh.

Perhaps these are all clues on the path to solving my conundrum.

Monday, March 23, 2015

African paintbrush.

So the weeks fly by.
We spent some time working at a mystical house on the coast. There are Khoisan shell middens close by and the wild birds in the garden all have pet names.

Then off we trundled to my favourite farm.
I had forgotten that pigs were so soulful.

So inquisitive. So hairy.

Roosters pick their way through marguerites and yarrow.
The silkies have Easter card chicks.
The cats and the dogs are as lazy as ever.

Closer to home, I found another golden orb spider - on her golden web.

And at home, even though Autumn approaches, magical flowers bloom.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


Ou Kaapse Weg was opened a few days after the raging fire and as I drove down the mountain I realised the full extent of the devastation. It is complete.
Road signs blistered and listing, barriers down. I could not and did not want to stop. Next to the road were knots of people pointing and taking photographs.
I couldn't wipe the image of the charcoal tortoise from my mind. All the animals and insects lost... the Nitidas were flowering the last time I drove that way.
On the other side, Tokai forest was burning and helicopters were going to and fro, dumping water on the flames.

People do strange things in strange weather.
It seems to peel away your good manners. Road rage abounded as often the only route onto the peninsula was the old Main Road, for years now the victim of never-ending roadworks. Stop and go. Shouted obscenities and seething tempers, as the ash rained slowly down.

At work, our leading lady and then our director fell suddenly ill. Our runway set was swept by high winds - the hangar doors blowing off every few days. The succulents were nibbled down to their roots, by small striped field mice.

We prepared new sets and then had to break them down again, without being shot. Fourteen days of wondering if we would continue. It left me with a feeling of severe deflation.

But let me share some wonderful things!

I came across a large area of sandy veldt that had Brunsvigia Orientalis bulbs in bud and later, in flower. In Afrikaans Seeroogbossie... it is so beautiful that your eyes hurt from looking.
I know the plant (unprepossessing - flat, straplike leaves hugging the ground) and I know the dry flower head - often used as a hanging decoration in West Coast beach houses.

But this...

At a farm further down the Vissershok road, there was the nest of some small bird in a fever tree. Cleverly lined with the feathers of a much bigger bird... and a bit of blue twine.

And then, in our garden, a golden orb spider.

Lovely creature.
What I thought was a clever mend is called the stabilimentum. It's also the reason why orb spiders are known as writing spiders.

And early this morning - a groundhog day - back to work in the moonlight. In a dip in the Malanshoogte road, there are swallows swooping and diving.

Monday, February 23, 2015


Three years ago, while travelling through Namibia, a very tall man took these photographs of a Herero woman, selling her wares next to the road. He brought me one of her lovely little dolls.

On saturday, racing through the boot sale on my way to set, I found these two beauties - judging by the fabrics used, from the seventies.

And finally, after seeing women dressed like this in Swakopmund when I was last there many years ago, receiving a doll and finding two more, I did some research on the Herero people.

This is not the place where I wish to rile against other nations, imperialism or colonialism. The history is there to be found by anyone who is interested. I was ignorant and now I know a little more.

I have been beset by a new passion lately - early 1900's African postcards. In my eagerness to explore, many collectors that I have come to know over the years have loaned me pieces from their own collections to study and scan.
Above, an old photograph of two Herero girls.

On my web travels, I came across the breathtaking work of Alfred Duggan-Cronin, an Irishman who worked in South Africa from 1897-1932.
And also some beautiful contemporary work by Jim Naughten.

Anthropologist Dr Lutz Marten said: 'Wearing the enemy's uniform will diminish their power and transfer some of their strength to the new wearer.
'This is in part assimilation to European culture, and also in part appropriation, a coming-to-terms with, and overcoming of history and the colonial experience,' he said.
Speaking about the clothes Herero women wear, he said: 'A correctly worn long dress induces in the wearer a slow and majestic gait.'

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


City of walkers. You can stand on any street corner for a while and  just watch the people passing by. People are walking and laughing and talking and carrying and pushing and pulling.

If it has wheels, you can move it.
You can rest in a doorway or follow the girls with their
bright sun umbrellas.

The colours. The light.

The thunder in the distance.

The swishing of a woman's skirt.

You watch and you listen.
You melt into the pot.