Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Flying without a net.

We once had a birthday party together, the lovely Virgoan girlfriend and I. We served bottomless White Whiskers and the Martinis were dirty. There was chocolate ganache cake with figs, and as much liquorice as a girl could wish for. Spun sugar and candlelight. The big surprise: the Magician... I introduced him to my baffled friend and watched as he entranced her, soon drawing a crowd. He bent spoons, he turned back time, he made us all a-flutter. He was a brilliant illusionist, but my favourite part was watching the faces around me - they were filled with such incredible child-like wonder, all of the world-weary cynicism left aside for a while.

And that's exactly what the circus did for us tonight.
Scented with jelly tots and buttered popcorn, this troupe of grown-up children entertain... I was by turns on the edge of my seat, then laughing so hard my ears ached and then having bouts of dislocating cold shivers. Juggling so strange and offbeat, it should have been a mess, but it was perfect. Bodies being tossed and tumbled into the air, zooming like paper aeroplanes, the flinging of ropes.

Lightning Bolt Drummer Girl in the Red Boots:
you left me breathless.
Ghostly Trapeze Acrobats: you made my heart stand still, my palms all sweaty.
Guy with Arm Muscles who Floated Horizontal from the Bar: well. You made my heart beat again.
We whooped and we whistled and we ahhh-d and we oooh-d.
How will I ever sleep tonight?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Billy Monk.

Art does it for me.
There's this feeling I get when I see paintings or photographs or sculpture up close... it's a great wonder, a fluttering, a lump in my throat - I want to laugh and cry at the same time. I got it when I saw the Rodins and the Blaue Reiters in Germany, the Degas ballerina with her tattered net skirt at the Tate. I had to sit down in the Rothko room, I got it so bad.
I saw forty-seven Billy Monk photographs today and got that feeling.

I saw this image in a Vula magazine when I was seventeen and it's stuck with me ever since. Back then I'd sneak out at night to hang with my friends at The Mix. We saw e-Void and EllaMental and The Dynamics.  I  drank those same little bottles of Coca Cola while I thought about that picture.

Billy Monk was a bouncer at Les Catacombs Club in Long Street, Cape Town in the late sixties. He used a 35mm Pentax and a fine grain Agfa film. High contrast with velvety soft tones and explicit detail.
The stitching on a shoe, the hair on a girl's leg - swirled under silky pantihose, the grubbiness around pockets, a half-smoked cigarette on the floor,
the ash perfectly intact.
Empty Limosin Brandy and Coca Cola bottles. Intelligensiemengsel. A girl in a bikini dancing in a cage. People lolling back, covering their eyes. It makes you queasy just looking. Dancing girls in trapeze-shaped mini dresses and silver shoes.
You see the bruises and the iniquity and you think that these images should be hard and ugly, but they're not.
They're beautiful.

Nightclub Photographs runs at Michael Stevenson until April 9.
See the rest of the photos here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

He says, she says.

I woke up at four and realized with quite a shock that it's almost April. It's all still under wraps, but a bunch of us are collaborating on an exciting new project and I need to do my bit.
So last night I met the photographer extraordinaire at Hesheng (which happens to be a he plus a she with an ng for luck) and we picked up some Dim Sum to go.

She did a bit of styling, he did a bit of shooting, and then they ate the props.

Photo by Karl Lilje.

Later today I'll be sharpening my knives and having my portrait taken. Slightly petrified.
maybe I liked being photographed when I was small...

but now that I'm big, not so much. Wish I could go back in time and tell that eight year old some important stuff. Anyway. It's all about that thing I promised myself at the beginning of the year -
pushing the boundaries of comfort and living a different kind of life.
Left foot, right foot.
With some dancing along the way.

Monday, March 21, 2011

How to meet Kurt Darren.

Drive through all the booms at the casino, towards the Grand Arena. Tell the guards that Derek sent you, that you are coming to photograph the grand piano.
They won't ask any questions.
There's a metal detector at the door and your bag may be searched, so don't take a gun.
Walk through any of the open doors.
Stumble around on the stage, looking for the piano. (It's in the far left corner, in the dark - you'll have to use a flash) Bump into Kurt and say hello.
Make small talk.
Wish from the bottom of your heart that he was Nick Cave instead. Or Marco Pierre White.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

That big bad moon.

Nasa promised a full Moon of rare size and beauty which would rise in the east at sunset on 19 March. It was an Extreme Super "Perigee Moon", the closest to Earth in almost 20 years. 
It was also a Fish Moon (with a nod to Pisces),
a Chaste Moon and a Sleepy Moon.
Sleepy was I, but didn't sleep much. Her light was just too bright.
I sat out by the pool in the late summer heat and listened to some werewolves howling in the street.
When there's a Full Moon, more accidents happen, more violence, more aggression. Perhaps it's just because more people are out and about. My neighbors played their bongos till 4h30 and I can imagine that got some people quite worked up, judging by the shouting and the swearing.
Facebook was quite amusing this morning, what with people wanting to reach out and throttle one another. I quote a certain foreign lady: "Oh & how... my next door neibor needs to get fucked up! He thru a fucking fire cracker into my yard & then my staffie attacked my toypom as she got a fright. I wish I could get a baseball bat & fuck him up with it!"

(Current Moon photo from the U.S. Naval Observatory)

I had a swim just before five and stumbled off to bed. In my dream we kissed a long goodnight and off he dashed into the dusky dawn, trailing twisted cables in his wake.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Flickering flames.

The last couple of days in the studio have been a good mixture of exciting and boring. The child in me always gets excited when I hear the words special effects. I'm not sure why, but it thrills me to see fire on set. The double lights above are for creating more of a flicker.
I had to do shopping in Stellenbosch again and once more was taken aback by the friendliness of that town. A shopkeeper ran out of his shop when I passed by twenty minutes later, to ask if I'd found what I'd been looking for, and to make another suggestion. Two kids kissing passionately on a corner stopped for a few seconds to say they'd seen me earlier and that they really liked my Fokofpolisiekar t-shirt.
It was like... Canada.

My favourite medic gave me a small tin of Zam-Buk salve the other day, for chapped lips after a day on the lake. It contains Eucalyptus, Camphor, Thyme and Sassafras. Whenever I open the tin I'll think of this shoot. I used some on my elbows too, and last night I put some on my foot, after my tall friend patiently removed a sliver of glass with a needle. While he operated, he told me about this girl he used to know. He had a crush on her for two years, and he still thinks about her from time to time.
There's just no herbal balm for that.
It's kind of exhausting having a crush on someone. I'm bemused by the way I feel. This normally quite erudite person turns into a blushing, awkward ten year old.
Dumbstruck. Unable to eat.
But it makes you realize that you're human, that the heart heals, that you can be excited about romance again.
And that tastes sweet, sweet, sweet.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Black into blue.

I left home at 4h30 am. Flashing blue lights at the bottom of Sir Lowry's Pass meant that the mountain was in flames. Meant a 90 minute detour along the coast. As I drove I thought of the last time I'd been on that road. It was almost a year ago and I was immersed in abject misery, my heart a pulpy mess. I wrote a story back then called She smells like cotton candy, which I still can't read past the first paragraph without my stomach twisting into a knot.
A pale dawn broke somewhere between Pringle Bay and Kleinmond. Slim Gaillard laughing in rhythm. I thought about the nature of heartbreak and how it's true what they say about time.
A friend sent this to me late one night:
You let time pass.
That's the cure.
You survive the days.
You float like a rabid ghost through the weeks.
You cry and you wallow and lament and scratch your way back up through the months.
And then one day you find yourself alone on a bench in the sun and you close your eyes and lean your head back and you realize you're okay.

I savour that feeling, for long minutes at a time.
I followed the markers down Appletiser Road into the Elgin Valley. Apple country. I passed orchards of trees bent double with loads of blushing fruit.
At base camp we packed our furs and our swords and sailed to set on three barges.

The calm ticking of clocks. By some fantastic stroke of synchronicity, I have found myself a place on a team without drama. So we worked together and we ate together, we laughed a lot and at night all of us slept over in little wooden houses overlooking the lake. A working kind of holiday.
I drove back to the city through the smog hanging over Athlone. Sat for a while in the morning rush hour, listening to Public Image Ltd, loud. Campfire smoke in my hair. Content.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Perde, kaf en koffers. A story from the West Coast.

A few days ago, C. (the man of the generous heart), wrote from Berlin to tell me how he'd learnt that Jean Rocher had died. So beautiful.

Ek het so hele klompie jare gelede in die Aurora Handelshuis gevra na beskuit.  Toe sê hulle ek moet vir Elna loop vra.  Ek ry soos hulle verduidelik het, op by die bult, die laaste huis aan die linkerkant.  Regoor die huis, aan die regterkant van die pad, is 'n groot skuur met karre en wrakke en engins wat orals binne en buite rondstaan.  Uit die skuur kom 'n man flink aangestap en hy vra my wat ek soek.  Beskuit, sê ek.
Saam stap ons na die groot Victoriaanse huis se voordeur, die mechanic en ek, hy maak oop en bulder af by die gang: Elna!  Nog 'n keer: Elna!  'n Vrouestem: Ja?  Mechanic: Kom hier!
Sy kom, en bring beskuit, ons gesels, ek koop.  Tussendeur maak ek 'n kommentaar oor die mooi ou huis, die ou meubels, en die portrette teen die muur. 
Hier hang hulle, die dooies!  Wie's dit?, vra ek, effens uit die veld geslaan.  Die Rocher familie van St. Helenafontein.  Ek praat met een van die seuns.  Wow, Rocher, ek ken vir oom Jean Rocher, sê ek.  Ja, ons het hom nounet laasweek begrawe!
En dit is hoe ek toe geleer het van die dood van een van die helde in my lewe.  Nie dat hy noodwendig my held was nie.  Ek het onsettend baie van hom gehou, maar hy was eintlik maar almal se held.  'n Man wat volgens sy eie reëls gelewe het, met soveel passie en 'n fyngevoel wat regtig raar is op die SA platteland.  Ek mis hom.
Ek dink die eerste vrou se naam was Käthe.  Sy was maar 'n bietjie van 'n hermit, altyd in die huis, gordyne toe.  So eenvoudige opstal op die rand van die Sandveld, in daai jare.  Dit was seker nie maklik nie, sy het seker maar 'n bietjie mal geraak.  En een of ander tyd geloop.  Om plek te maak vir die perskebloeiseltjie, die buurvrou.
O ja, voor ek vergeet.  Hy is wel beroemd as teler van spogperde, maar belangrik is om te verstaan hoe die woord uit sy mond gekom het.  Met 'n swaar Sandveld brei, pêhrre.

C.'s family are also Pêhrremense. Horse People. The tin rondavels above are on Jean Rocher's farm Duinefontein, near Velddrif.
We stayed there a few times in our twenties. One time in particular stands out indelible and bright. I remember we left town quite late one saturday morning. For sustenance in the car we had ginger snaps, a bottle of Old Brown Sherry, and maybe a joint. The sandy farm road combined with a loose plate under our little Mazda 323 acted as a spade and we got stuck in a drift. We walked to the rondavels to get help from our friends.
Halfway there, against the horizon of sand dunes and purple heather, a lone white horse stood watching us. I remember C. warning me about the skittish nature of horses - Arabians in particular, but I felt fearless. One horse soon became three. They were inquisitive and gentle, and exquisite. To say that they were well-groomed would be an understatement. It was as if they'd just been to the salon. Blow waved. Delicious smelling.

I only met Jean Rocher the one time. He wore a deerstalker, which he tipped when he said good afternoon. Shy and twinkly-eyed. I never did meet his Peach Blossom.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Day Eight.

I drove home past a herd of goats. Some thoughtful cows lying under a tree, chewing their cuds. Boys and men playing soccer together between makeshift posts. Table Mountain shimmering in the distance. 
I thought about the people in my life, the ones who mean the world to me.
How I struggle to say it sometimes.
And then I thought of something
someone said to me a while back.
"Love". No matter if you can't muster the "I" and the "you". That puny little word has the power to stand on its own.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Duchess, revisited.

My father's first wife was referred to, in hushed tones, as "The Duchess". Black hair with a widow's peak, milky skin and blue eyes. The small town Vivien Leigh of the sixties. I think of her whenever I look at the silhouette portraits on either side of The Duchess of Wisbeach's front door.

Our dinner there last September couldn't be faulted.
So last night I went there with those juicy Karoo Lamb Chops foremost on my mind, my belly growling.
There were only two, not three. The jug of velvety mint sauce is now a tiny dish of watery green. The chops themselves were small and lackluster. My companion to the right remarked that his spatchcocked baby chicken may have been run over, so plentiful were the splinters of bone.
Ah well, nothing that another glass of wine wouldn't remedy. And on the bright side: the french fries are still seriously good. We shared three desserts with many spoons - all delicious. The service was excellent, if completely eccentric.
The mood was light and jovial.
Thanks friends, for a lovely evening.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Woodstock Vintage and how the days rush by.

Over the years I've bought many a beautiful thing from a certain man at the Milnerton Market. He has that elusive thing which is bandied about a lot in the art department... Nazeem has an eye.
So imagine my delight when he told me that he
was opening a shop!
And here it is:

Woodstock Vintage, Amen's Building (it's avocado green.)
131 Sir Lowry Rd

I couldn't resist this Leopard plate. Kruger National Park special edition, by Wedgewood nogal.

 At around twenty-five past on the picture above, there's a small galloping warthog so jolly, just thinking about him makes me smile.

Back at construction, big things are happening. A huge round table is being built for King Arthur.  A prow is being carved for a barge - the head and slender neck of a mythical horse.
A large shipment of fake fur arrives tomorrow at dawn. Skinny cats gather on the foreshore.

The sun feels lower every day. Down the road there are drifts of crackling brown leaves. The pigs and the squirrels are out foraging.
Come evening, the sky is on fire.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Secrets from the reservoir.

As I ran around the reservoir this morning, I happened past two ladies walking and talking. They were perhaps fifteen or twenty years older than me. This is what I heard as I approached and then passed them by: "As with most things in life... take for instance relationships, the secret is...."
And the rest was tantalizingly lost to the breeze.
So, on the next lap, I stopped and said hello.
Turns out that their conversation had been about how people sometimes let themselves go and become bigger than they'd like to be. The taller lady said to me: "It's about being aware. Keeping an eye out. When things feel wrong, even slightly so, take action immediately. And this is the same for relationships. If something feels wrong, do something about it. And if it stays wrong, get out, because otherwise you are wasting precious time and it only gets harder and harder to leave."
As I ran off, she called out: good luck!

You can't sway someone from their journey if it's what they have their heart set upon. But it all goes back to one of my favourite quotations from the man of the generous heart: "Dis okay om foute te maak, maar as jy nie leer van jou foute nie, is jy 'n doos." (It's okay to make mistakes, but if you don't learn from them, you're a c*nt)
I'm not saying I won't make mistakes again. But hopefully next time when someone I'm in love with looks me in the eye and says: "You know I'm a louse, baby.", I'll try to listen past the stars in my eyes and the humming of that tuning fork in my body and take more care. And maybe eat less chocolate.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


You know those shimmering hot days when you drive around to a hundred places, knowing full well that Cape Town in March 2011 is not the place to find authentic 5th century dressing for a commercial featuring King Arthur? And on top of it all, you feel fat?
So you can either go home and drink wine or you can go to the theatre with your dear friend. I did both.

No photo does Mummenschanz justice.
The show is a constant enthrallment. Just as you think: THIS, this is the best part, they do something better, funnier, more touching. I loved it when the big yellow slinky man batted a giant red balloon into the audience and we batted it back. The illuminated ribbons of light swishing through the air. The man who cried toilet paper tears. The inflated organ as big as a car. It changed from liver to heart to grinning head, to ominous thing engulfing part of the front row, to a small puddle of fabric. Mummenschanz wobbled and floated and soared across the stage. Deceptively simple and fiendishly clever are these elegant illusionists. Then, to final bravos, they whip off their camouflage and you see the people underneath. Grey hair, beautiful smiles. They've been doing this masquerade since 1972.

Mummenschanz is on at the Baxter till 19 March.

Yes, I still feel fat. It's just one of those days. But my heart is light as spun sugar.