Monday, 11 May 2015

My flaws are open season

Bit of that pubescent insecurity flaring up. Bit of the old playlists balancing it all out again. At times all you need is a little air guitar.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

You got some me in you

Jy stuur foto's van skape voor julle twee weer op pad is. Hoe anders ons verhouding is in vergelyking met julle s'n. Vandag het ek met G. gesels oor ouers, oor wat die ander helfte gemis het deur nie daar te wees nie, watse verskil dit maak as mens saam deur die vuur moet stap. Ek verlang na jou, na die lang pad, na kos soos wat net jy dit kan maak, na tye met die hondjies, na die reuk van daai grys-blou truitjie van jou.

Ek wil voorberei vir die gesprek met die sielkundige, die voorbereiding vir 'n nog groter/ander gesprek einde van die maand, ek wil notas maak in my dagboek.

Toe kry ek dié, van 'n tyd net nadat ek weer terug was in die land waar selfs die wolke in gelid marsjeer:

Vanaand maak ek my bed
met 'n laken wat jy oor
12 000 km
2 vliegtuie
3 treine
en 'n taxi gebring het.
Dit is niks besonders nie,
vaal blou. Dis al.
Maar selfs deur my
verstopte neus
(verkoue in die somer? waar op Gods aarde?)
ruik ek hy is van ver,
van die tuiste af. 

Ek is lief vir jou Moomin.

Friday, 8 May 2015


At some point in high school we were doing The Merchant of Venice. Our teacher was a tall dame nearing retirement. She was always impeccably dressed, with a hint of expensive jewellery. Frau something-or-other was intimidating yet friendly, intent on teaching us to have ambitions whilst also making us appreciate the beauty of the language. 

This day, we were nearing the end of the play, and I knew the scene would come. The one I had heard quoted before, the one I (mis)wrote on my jeans, the one thing Shakespeare wrote besides 'to be or not to be, that is the question' that I can't forget. 

Always these lines: 

To bait fish withal: if it will feed nothing else,
it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me, and
hindered me half a million; laughed at my losses,
mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my
bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine
enemies; and what's his reason? I am a Jew. Hath
not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with
the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject
to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not
revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will
resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian,
what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian
wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by
Christian example? Why, revenge. The villany you
teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I
will better the instruction.

The Merchant of Venice,3,i.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

You are one of us

There is something about pilgrimages, about being on the long road with a certain goal that appeals to my inner wild child. Travelling, moving somewhere out of the ordinary, means breaking away (at least for a while)  from responsibilities. My mother and I have road-tripped together most often, so it is hard for me to hear about her driving alone to fetch my gran in Jeffrey's Bay. It is hard not being there, not helping to pack the car, not taking the longer shifts. I know the road they are taking: Jansenville, Graaff-Reinet, Middelburg, Colesberg, Bloemfontein. When driving down from Pretoria my grandmother would call at intervals, asking where we were, calculating how fast we were reaching each milepost along the road.

The family was trekking into the heart of the country for a reunion of epic proportions. Cousins, great-cousins, aunts, uncles, everyone related in some way, everyone wanting to see how the others had changed. Underneath it all a current of familiar strife, people having fallen out and not spoken to one another in years. This frustrates me extremely. My cousin Emce calls me 'kwaai katjie' and the other day my mother and grandmother laughed as they said I was a 'kwaaitjie kabouter' (it translates into an angry kitten and an angry little gnome). They say this without listening. I am angry, it is true, but at them, for never talking about anything. Avoiding conflict and pretending at everything being a-ok runs in their veins, with the end result being no one talking to one another. If we do not speak about it, it is not happening.

I fully understand that not everyone wants to talk at length about their feelings. We are not on Freud's couch, there is no need for psychoanalysis. But I will insist on honesty. I will insist on making things a-ok, on working at it, instead of feigning ignorance at the problems in our midst. They do not understand this being-far-away-thing. I appreciate the videos, the voice messages, the photographs of togetherness being sent over social media more than they know. I thank the Gods for WhatsApp and FaceTime. Yet the sentence "When are you coming for a visit?" stresses me, because I have no answer. I don't know if or when I'll come back. Personal aspirations clash with familiar desires, wanting to see more with wanting to be there.

It won't be an easy choice, when I eventually make it. It won't be a permanent one, probably. But it will mean more years in far away places, not coming to Sunday lunches, Christmas dinners or helping to drive the long road. It means building a life so apart form them that I fear at some point the voice notes will stop, the photographs won't be shared, and I will no longer be one of them.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz

The car I learned to drive in was more of a ship than a car. I steered a ship on the road, not some plastic sardine box. The old white Merc 190 from the late 80s was my great-uncle's car, which my father had bought off him somewhere when we were living in Geneva. The car traveled with us to Mexico, and then was placed in a container and shipped back to South Africa, full of cases of red wine if I remember correctly.

The problem with this is that the Mercedes is a left-hand drive, and South Africa has right-hand drive cars. So any time the driver would have to turn right, seeing the oncoming traffic was made harder than necessary. Before the white Mercedes there was the blue station wagon, also a Mercedes, and much more of a ship to steer than the 190. It was a solid steel block, relentless in its stability. Someone clipped the station wagon while my sister was waiting at a robot and she barely felt it (probably an exaggeration, but I quite like the idea of her not noticing she is in a car accident).

Beyond these two cars there was another green Merc somewhere in the dark recesses of my childhood memories. My father still drives a silver Merc station wagon, and the white ship was my ride in Cape Town during last year's holidays. Somehow, we have remained fairly loyal to the brand.

Sticking with the horse. 
In Stuttgart, we had the option of going to the Mercedes Benz Museum or to the Porsche one. Since Mercedes has an older history, we headed there on Wednesday morning. The percentage of Mercedes cars increases exponentially the closer one gets to the imposing building that hosts the museum. The idea is to start at the top and then spiral one's way down automobile and world history whilst also seeing the various cars from different eras. Nina and I are both not car obsessed and I think one could spend a lot longer in the museum than we did. It is beautifully done, but after having spent two hours on the top three floors alone we speedwalked through the remaining six levels. In any case, the classic cars seemed more appealing due to their Great-Gatsby looks than the ones that appear from the 1970s onwards.

First patent. 

In the end we got slightly lost on the sales floor (where no one tried to sell us a car, wonder why) before eventually having to go up two floors again to escape the gigantic museum. Next time I might stick to art again.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Wait on the brink

With many travels coming up in the next few months I realised I had never spoken about the get-away to Stuttgart at the end of March.

We never wanted to go to Stuttgart. My friend Nina came over one night and we spoke about Germanwings' bling booking option. We were both feeling drowned by this place and in need of different air, so on the spur of the moment we booked a flight to an exotic place. Or so we thought. For an agonising 45 seconds we were giddy with excitement at ending up in Budapest, Manchester, Geneva or Paris. We spoke about acquaintances in those cities that we could stay with, and what adventures we would have. Then the site showed us our destination: Stuttgart. We wouldn't even be leaving the country. Getting to the airport in Hamburg from here would take longer than the actual flight. Disappointment washed over us, and the need to say that we'd make the best of it. Hell, we'd both not been there before. And we'd get away, at least.

So on a Monday morning we boarded a plane to Stuttgart, where we spent the first two days at Andrea's place. Andrea is in his early forties, has an enormous bush of black ringlets streaked with grey that frame his face and speaks a strange German that is tinged with both his native Italian and the local Swabian dialect. He has lived in Stuttgart for 17 years and works at some IT company. The first night he showed us around a bit and made a great supper consisting of pasta with broccoli, raisins, pine nuts, generous helpings of olive oil and even more generous helpings of Parmesan. The raisins complemented the dish fantastically, as did the wine he generously offered us (his entire kitchen is stocked with wine since his friends keep bringing him some and he does not drink).

Tuesday was spent exploring the city. Since I am slightly OCD about seeing things in new places whilst not spending any money, I had trip-advisored myself though the Internet and written down what might be interesting to see. Our Tuesday started off with walking up the inclining hill to the Corbusier house in the Weissenhof neighbourhood. but the trip was rather pointless since the Curbusier museum was closed and we both aren't so interested in his five points of architecture to truly appreciate the areas designated style.

Corbusier House. 
So we went back down the hill and into the city library, which is often featured online for its distinctive design. It was wonderful simply being in a library with a large collection, so we investigated the different sections and then went to the roof terrace. I was expecting benches and maybe a roof garden, but it was just concrete and steel-mesh flooring, with a view of half a dozen cranes.

Books books books. 
Our walk continued through the business district towards the central station and then to the Hans im Glück fountain, which is surrounded by little restaurants. In the hopes of finding something similar to Hamburg's Sternschanze or Joburg's Braamfontein we went to the Bohnenviertel (Bean District), but were sadly disappointed in finding only a handful of interesting stores and quaint restaurants in the entire area. Our quest to find the beating heart of this city led us onwards to the Feuerseeplatz with its lake and then we took the S-Bahn out of the city into the winelands. Thinking we'd go on a drinking tour of different vineyards we started climbing the Rotenberg. Again, we were mistaken: none of the wineries were open yet because spring hadn't really started and there was not a grape in sight, never mind some wine. We soldiered on in what felt like sweltering heat, conquering the mountain in wingtips. At some point we took a short-cut up an endless row of tiny stairs between the vines, and collapsed at the top. The time it took to recover from the vertical incline would've probably amounted to the same time it would have taken had we snaked our way up the hill like normal people.

"No time, I have to live!"
Upon reaching the top we sat down in front of the memorial site of some dead Wüttembergian queen and enjoyed the view. No ocean in sight, just a sea of hills. Late afternoon lead us down the mountain again where we bought a cold beer and relaxed next to the river. When it started raining we took the train back to the city and indulged in a Swabian meal of Spätzle with cheese or Geschnetzeltes (strips of meat in a creamy mushroom sauce). Spätzle is a dish I associate with various parts of my family: when I was younger we'd sometimes visit distant relatives in Wiesenbach (a tiny town in Baden-Württemberg) where they'd often make Spätzle with Geschnetzeltes. My German grandmother also fed us Spätzle with Rouladen the few times we visited her and my grandfather in Paarl. Lastly, my mom would make double the amount of Spätzle and bake one dish with cheese in the oven whilst freezing the other one for the times that she could not be there. Strange how a noodle is more than a noodle at times.

Love never ends.
View from the top. 
Beer time. 
Dinner: Spätzle with Geschnetzeltes. 
Tuesday left us exhaused, so we headed home.
I'm also exhaused, so I'll continue the tall tales of adventure time in Stuttgart tomorrow :)