Monday, August 26, 2013

Spring Chicken.

When you spend a few days in a place like Moorreesburg, you need to snap out of your city ways fast. The townsfolk greet you in shops, on pavements, in cars. Yes, as you drive down the main street, other drivers nod and smile. There is the doffing of caps and much friendly gesticulating: No, you - you go first.

This is the small town mentality of my childhood and now that I am back in the city I miss it.

We shot in a few different houses - it always amazes me that people let us in so easily. You get to see bits and pieces of other lives - something I will never tire of.

And you hear stories. I wish I could go back with my notebook, but mostly there just isn't time. 

In a living room with rosy wallpaper, there is a sepia portrait of a movie-star-handsome man with a twirled moustache. Her father, she says. He escaped from one of the prisoner of war camps by sewing himself a khaki uniform and casually walking away. Then he became a spy in the British Navy.
When she was born, he attached the cockpit of a fighter plane to his open Willys Jeep, so that he could transport her in safety.

After the shoot, she says to me: "I'm so proud of my dogs and my chickens... they behaved so well." This after we had a huge crew eating lunch in the garden, wardrobe and make-up and extras lounging about as if they owned the place.

It was a commercial for a colonel. We were divided into two groups: us - the worker ants and them - the chicken people. The chicken people could not talk to us, would deign only to speak to the director.  I noticed a little voodoo doll tucked into the wardrobe lady's bag. It steadily filled with pins.

It's a tough world sometimes, this film business, and so disenchanted have I become, that when the director walked onto our second set and whooped with joy, I thought for a moment he was being sarcastic. After that, the day turned sunshiny and the Namaqua daisies opened wide. 

Home was on the outskirts of town, on an ancient farm. The dogs followed as I walked down to the dam. It was covered in waterblommetjies - the edible flowers of an aquatic plant, similar in flavour to a French bean. If I had known, my supper menu would have been different.

It had been a long time since since I cooked a meal for eight. The Saint Bernard watched mournfully from the threshold.

Every day I drove past a field of juicy clover and saw a strange sight: a single bay stallion with his own flock of sheep. They did everything together and made me ring with delight.

In the dark mornings, there was ice on the cars. The mountains are still snow-capped. But there's that feeling of Spring, just around the corner.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Finger licking good.

The rain is gushing down the mountain, streaming down the buildings.
The Liesbeeck River is swollen and unctuous, a dark olive green.
Gloved hands every morning, dragon breath at night.

In the apartment block across the road, the students forget to buy electricity. I see them eating breakfast by candle light.

Back in the fast world of commercials, the people are on fire - they bounce like rubber balls. Reminiscent of the stock market, ideas gain and lose favour, sometimes within minutes.
It never rains, but it pours.
We are waging a velvet war: art department, production and agency.

On the way to Moorreesburg, the canola fields are sunshine yellow. The mountains still blue and covered in snow. In the countryside, time really does move in a different way.

The time has come for me to pack up my collections and put them away for a while. At home I walk new paths between towers of boxes, rolls of cardboard and bubble wrap.
Already I feel lighter.

A Gypsy life for me!

Friday, August 9, 2013

In a borrowed tent.

I am steadily becoming obsessed with history. Those quirky stories of everyday life that get lost in time. The long legged man's great grandfather was a commander in the Boer War. He remembers his grandfather telling the children stories that his father had told him. Nobody wrote them down. I wish I could go back in time and take notes.

Recently in Churchhaven, I found this old milk bottle buried in the sand. Perhaps from the 60's or even the 50's, it bears the instruction: This bottle costs more than ten cents. Please rinse and return promptly.
I could find no information about the Union Dairy Farm - according to the bottle, they were on the Ou Kaapse Weg in Tokai.

My generation all remembers having milk and juice delivered in the morning. The feeling of pressing down the foil cap with your thumb...

Over lunch at the Chapman's Peak Hotel, my friend the potter and haiku writer told me that he remembers this:
he grew up in East London and early mornings were heralded by a barefoot Zulu milkman, who would come along pushing his red and white painted wooden handcart, milk bottles clinking.
His name was Milky and he wore blue overalls with Model Dairy embroidered on the back, and copper bangles around his wrists and his ankles. In the winter, he had a lantern hanging from his cart.

My friend also told me that his daughter had given up her long years of Philosophy studies to devote her life to the baking of biscuits.
That sounds like a wonderful life to me. 

through a hole
in a borrowed tent
the Milky Way

- Steve Shapiro