Saturday, May 31, 2014


I left a cold Cape Town in darkness and horizontal rain. Now I find myself in a different world: the midlands of KwaZulu-Natal. Hot and lush with sugarcane and cattle. Earth steeped in the blood and tears of Boer, Brit and Zulu.

Our first set takes shape on the savannah outside town.

On a rare day off, still trying to get my bearings, I followed my nose to the Botanical Gardens. I walked down the ancient plane tree arbour, kicking my way through ankle-deep leaves.

There was no-one else there. Sounds carried from far off - men chopping wood, the honking of geese. All around me, leaves fell in drifts. I can't explain the sound they made upon impact. An organic kind of snick. Some say it's the sound of the gods walking.

I sat under the huge canopy of a tree, looking out over prehistoric marshland. The air full of sunbeams and small flying insects.

I tried to ignore the signs that cropped up everywhere:
You walk here at your own risk.
I walked along flower strewn paths, bees diving drunkenly into the camellias. Tree trunks thickly encrusted with lichens. And then I left, one more rustle in the trees a rustle too many. This town is filled with warnings, some are veiled and some are not.

My Love is in Paris, walking the streets of yet a different world.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Better the devil you know.

Things are barking mad this side. Two assistants, two swing gangs, two eight ton trucks... just not two of me. Then we have an art director somewhere in Natal, one here and a stoner of a production designer. Tends to repeat himself. German punctuality? Not so much.

I have to ask myself, at eleven on a Friday night, why I am steaming curtains at the SABC auditorium and not all snug at home. Why I lie awake at three composing emails in my head, making lists in the notebook on my night table. I am a part of this big snowball and right now I can't imagine a different life.

A moment's respite from the madness: Champion, driver, old friend, brings me some plantain this morning, cooked by his wife. It's delicious.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Plagued by pianos.

A message from the German production office: the director has requested that there may not be any pianos whatsoever on set. The lead actor fancies himself as a budding pianist and having a piano on set is counter-productive.

As luck would have it, there is a piano at almost every chosen location. In some instances, a baby grand piano. Not to be moved. So it's a question of the cunning construction of boxes that look like built-in cabinets with drawers or doors with handles and knobs... this is a part of my job that I dislike. Also the hiding of plugs and switches and signage that isn't period. I have, in the past, gotten away with hanging coats over electrical boxes on walls. Washcloths over taps.

Did you know that in Germany, paint colours have codes only, no names. I loved watching the German art director smile when we chose these colours for sets: "Bleached Meadow" for a prison, "Happy Ending" for an apartment and "Marshy Habitat" for a bush hospital.
A dream job, the namer of colours.

One doesn't think of autumn as being a time of growth, but things are happening. And the birds are hungry. I am hungry for my long-legged man, far away in La-La-Land. Ten more weeks.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Autumn, because it falls.

Over the years I had often seen a woman at the boot sale, and wondered about her. She was beautiful, young, but with long snow white hair. Often we would stop to admire the same thing. It made sense then that I would finally meet her at B's house. And find out that she is a mathematician - a code breaker. B was opening a tiny shop in her beautiful little house. There was a pair of scissors for every guest, so that we could all cut the ribbon strung over the doorway.

B is my favourite trader at the boot sale. Her house is a continuation of everything I have always loved about her stall. It is filled with careful consideration. She invited me for fruit cake and Earl Grey tea one day, and told me her life story. I am lucky to know her.

On the day of the opening, the white-haired mathematician was in charge of sales. She did the adding up of amounts in an interesting way. And fast!

She told me yesterday that she and her boyfriend had just returned from Kyoto, where they had seen the cherry blossoms.

Dale the bottle man proudly presented me with a signed copy of his new book. We spoke about our love for blue and white porcelain and where to pick up old shards.
I bumped into Braam and we stood for a while at Bob's stall, ruminating over some African sculptures, as we ate our cheese straws from Rosa's. Bob, as always, doffed his hat.

Ernie tried to convince me to buy a lovely kelim, but I wasn't in a buying mood. He laughed and said: Okay dearie!

These long days. If I arrive home while it's still light, my greatest pleasure is to walk around the garden sipping a gin and tonic, noticing the changes. How a small hawk-eye caterpillar can eat an entire arum leaf in a day and grow proportionately. Baby leaves appear on new plants. The pincushion bushes are budding for their late winter glory. The aloes are magnificent.

I watch the mourning doves after I scatter some seed. There will always be a big guy who'll try to chase the smaller ones away.
But while he turns his back, there will always be others to take his place.
I watch the comings and goings of a cloud of black butterflies. They stayed for three days, then left.

 The dozens of reminders that life goes on in its brutal and sometimes beautiful way, whether you want it to or not.