Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Special powers.

Taken by a very tall man. Los Angeles 2014
 I've been wearing spectacles ever since I was a little girl of nine or so. At first, for reading the writing on the black board at school. For years I walked around in a fuzz, not realising that I needed to wear them all the time. Then, when I was sixteen, I got my first pair of contact lenses. Epiphany: the trees are not big green blobs - they are made up of leaves! And the boys have very hairy legs. (My mom remembers me telling her that)

I've always known my eyes are bad, but it was a shock to me when my optometrist told me that if I had been born in the middle ages, I would have a staff and someone would have had to lead me around - in fact, if my right eye was just a little weaker, I would be legally blind. Not in darkness, but without aid I saw only light, colour and blurry shapes. The long legged man often stands in the doorway and smiles at me - I know this because I hear the tiny kiss of the corners of his mouth. For what my maker took away in sight, I was compensated for with a fine set of ears.

 Last monday I went to see the Superman of corneas, Dr. Michael Attenborough. By a stroke of luck, I was bumped up to have PRK laser surgery on thursday - the waiting list is normally months long. It was over within minutes: the pasting of eyelashes with special curved tape, the flashing lights, the ice cold drops and a smell I'd rather not remember. Gentle words of encouragement from the doctor and the firm pressure of a nurse's hand on my arm the entire time.

I asked him a few days later what it felt like to bring such miraculous change to people's lives. He said that often it doesn't feel like work - in a case like mine, it's actually fun. Then he showed me some of the other work he's done - cornea transplants for people with cataracts covering the entire eye. He has special powers that man, and a very steady hand.

I can now read the teeniest little words on the eye dropper bottle. I've just done some darning and could thread the needle - piece of cake. Long distances are still settling in - there's a haze. But it's early days yet and just another lesson in patience.

The eyes can do a thousand things that the fingers cannot.
- Iranian proverb.

Sanell Aggenbach

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Surely there can be no better balm for the world-weary than a week on the West Coast.

We go at slightly different times every year, but the changes are vast - the flowering plants, the behaviour of animals...

Tortoises busy with their tortoise business. A few lonesome francolins still chirrup, looking for mates. Bulbuls and wattled starlings splashing in the birdbath - sometimes six thick. At dusk - a rim of pale yellow still on the horizon - a large owl swooped low and over us, going who knows where. On a sunny afternoon a pied crow came soaring straight towards me. But then had a change of heart.
The constant honking of the flamingoes - nothing on earth more beautiful than those jesters taking flight.

Strange landscapes we found ourselves in. Glimpses of movement and colour through the reeds.

Growth and gentle decay.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Boxes. Balls of wire.

I enjoyed reading Mark Gungor's take on the difference between the brain of a man and a woman. He says a man's brain consists of many small boxes. The boxes get taken out and opened one by one.
The boxes do not touch.

A woman's brain consists of a big ball of wire and everything is connected. It made for a rueful laugh, as it rings so very true. The tall man says he suspects there are smaller balls of wire leading off from my big one.
And I am convinced that he has at least one large box full of wire...

There was a concert this week. Heartstrings... wires, electricity, emotion. Call it what you will. Mine were sparking. Willy Mason: boy from the north-east. Such charm and wit, such talent. Smooth talker, voice like molasses. One understands what makes girls throw their underwear at musicians and wonders why no-one did,
last wednesday night.

By the time Cat Power cantered onto the stage, I was a quivering crow's nest of live wire. Useless at photography: two black frames, three blurred. Found wanting. Chewed up, swallowed whole.
Over the moon.

She reminded me that famous people are normal people too. And then. That voice.

Today finds me cooking hero food - food that will find it's way to a film set. Cooking this kind of very specific food is a dubious honour - perhaps our Nooi van Benoni doesn't actually like bobotie. Most definitely, if they do many takes, there will be a bucket for her to discreetly spit unchewed mouthfuls into. Maybe Mr Penn decides bobotie is just too weird and calls for fried chicken instead.

There's buttered yellow rice too. With raisins and honey.
But by the time they serve it, we'll be far away.