Friday, November 6, 2009

Botanic Gardens

For Claudia

Fifty (or so) school children walk by and
smile and

Fifty (or so) school children come back and
fight over being in a photo with
one “umlungu”* on a bench –

Out comes a camera.
I sit awkwardly.
then I put (my bags between my legs and) an arm around a girl who giggles shyly,
there is a roar from the crowd!
and click.

Something funny is going on here;

I just hope the joke’s on me.


umlungu (usually) derogatory term for a white person

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"There's a book inside everyone"

I've just returned from my first ever book launch.

I came home with the novel - semi-autobiographical - to find my dad grew up in the sam
e street as her (Sally-Ann Murray) and caught the trans-berea with her brother. So my dad also has claims to poor-white Umbilo - now for the first time in English literature!

But who will write THE South African Novel? Who will make sense of *all* the many identities and complexities? I propose... A Collaborative! All I need is... a rather large tea m.

Here's a link to info about the book: click the picture. Buy the book off

Thursday, August 13, 2009

"Back Home"

Mildly down about my day, and unwinding with a Zonneblom Merlot on the pavement of a small Italian restaurant at the bottom of Florida Rd, I slipped up. About to tell my folks insignificant (hardly entertaining) anecdotes about failed vegetarianism, and being plied with wine at 40A School's Court, I accidentally begun with the phrase "Back home - "


How to explain that to one's parents? How to convey how much comfort a spongey blue couch or an office chair held together with duck tape can bring at the end of days like these?

As the conversation moved back to which balustrade to choose for the new staircase, I allowed myself to take a walk down Broad Street, lazy in the gentle sun. I stopped at the martyr's cross to tell someone about Latimer and Ridley, confusing them with Cranmer in the process. As I looked at their plaque I thought about their fire and imagined the Radcam all alight, and alive, but not burning. I thought about it all the way past the stone heads of Sheldon and Ian (my startled academic friends made of stone) and continued down Holywell (sidestepping construction and not bothering to wait for green lights). As I walked past the Alternative Tuckshop I glanced to the right, noticing a troop of schoolboys in fancy dress and silly hats, and scanned both sides of the road to make sure there were no friends or acquaintances to greet or meet. Instead I was met by the smell of croissants emanating from the ATT, and glanced up at the man who works by the till on the other side of the glass. He caught my eye and gave me his perfect smile and shy nod; I waved, and kept walking, down past the dept of international development, its tiny but inviting lawn and on past Mansfield College, under the trees now leafy and languid... and here I saw someone I know: a chemist (I forget his name) but I smile and say hi. I kept walking, past the nitrogen tank on the right, recycling bins on the left, past the small red bike, the purple family bike with a baby chair, then up the stairs towards the wall of shiny glass, then a WHOOSH of the automatic doors, sudden cool, the sound of my voice - high and too fast, filling in the uncertain gaps. Then I saw what I suppose I've been looking for: patient, bemused expressions in response to my cacophony of babblings. Out of my periphery vision I saw familiar forms: stooped in white coats, or staring expressionless at flatscreens, and some walking bent but quickly through the turnstiles with small, serious eyes, dehydrated and sunless skin...

And now that I'm writing, I may as well venture down to the tea-table and the glaring bright. Everything is white but for glistening eyes: hazel, green, brown, teal. Amidst the clatter, and my propensity for public silliness, I am suddenly tired and serious... enough escapism for tonight. Goodnight dreamland; it's bedtime.


Monday, August 10, 2009

"Shushlooey" (Hluhluwe) with the gals

"Girl's weekend away" would connote an wholly erroneous impression of how we spent Women's Day. Although I certainly pulled my weight in terms of giggling and frivolous mirth (and thanks to Erica for the wine), for the most part, my team were exercising their abundant gifts of pragmatism and task-focus. No thanks to me, we successfully achieved our objective. A sample pasted below - for the rest, see facebook (I'll put them up as soon as I finish/give up on Villette). If you'll permit my sentimentalising, I'd like to add: I feel could not have found myself with more pleasant company... I even cherished a moment of two quiet (!) Contentment.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Blind blunder

My sister-in-law Mandy has always wanted to adopt children. She makes a strong case for why families in South Africa should. It's curious, though, that upon visiting the orphanage to play with some of the kids there, my nephew Asher made his request: "I want a brother like me... a lighty like me." Thinking he meant "laaitie" - a term of endearment for a male who is young or little, my brother pressed the issue. Asher responded by indicating the skin on his face, "not a darky one a lighty one like me!" Fortunately, the crowd of mostly brown-skinned adults laughed generously at the innocent blunder.
I wondered where and how he learnt to tell the difference: if by nature children cling to what is familiar and are hostile to what appears different, or if even at aged 3, he has perceived the differences in our society for brown or pale people...

Don the dad vs Tesco Rescue

Pre-UK, my gorgeous red fiat seicento 1100 aka My-hot-car was bruised and scarred on all sides. None of which was my fault. As a welcome-home present to me, Don (the dad) gave her a face-lift and a body-spray. Within her sleek and radiant exterior, he filled her soul with music (mp 3 player - yay). Knowing my baby as I do, however, I could sense something was wrong. The smell of burning and strange noises were a clue. On my way to don's work yesterday to have the girl checked out, she died on me. At the 4/5 lane pavilion intersection. Not perfect, but could have been worse. While waiting for Don the great patriarch and rescuer of women, "Aubrey" a stranger in an old-school jeep stopped behind me to wait with me, "you never know what can happen round here" How to tell the man he was making me extremely uncomfortable? Fortunately the team arrived shortly: 2 civil engineers, a car mechanic, a jeep and a pickuptruck later... everything was taken care of, and I, safely deposited at my brother's house to attempt reading Charlotte Bronte in the midst of two small children. How apt.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Nice white lady

I AM this babe. Picture me in my classroom (MTB 99).

This is a spoof of teacher-cleans-up-the-inner-city genre. Thanks also to erica for her interpretation of the material.

WATCH IT (click here!)

A different kind of lit

Something very lovely (a sort-of graphic novel... with words).

Please read till the end. Click here.

Sins of the fathers

More seriously, my mom's landlord (she has one and a half junk/antique shops) says last night, after the painter got locked in the building, "The problem with these blacks is that they beg you for a job and then want to be spoonfed the whole way through!" - this from someone who benefited enormously off the apartheid economic and education system, about someone who really, just didn't. It genuinely shocks me... and I'm ashamed to say I didn't say anything, that time.

Itz Mary (ItzMaryItzMary)

Then there's my mom... she calls in her workers yesterday to find out who broke the chair, and says to them "Listen guys, Martin and I, we are not the boer. we're not going to hit you if you break something ok?" My mom gets away with at times a truly cringeworthy turn of phrase... she compensates by being one of the most generous and compassionate people in the whole world (fact. research has shown.).

Some of my best friends are "People of your culture"

There's this lady Gillian on my course. She's fully old. And wears crazy hats. And says lots of irrelevant things, in a weird colonial accent... annoying - but very entertaining. Halfway through rambling on about Percy Shelley in the middle of a Mary Wollstonecraft seminar, she looks over at Nandipha (black, female, first language english speaker, private-schooled english graduate, highly intelligent) and pulls out this line about "people in YOUR culture" and proceeds to tell her how 20 years ago black girls would come to her while she was sitting in her garden and tell her about their problems.. and she would educate them. Bless her soul.

"Life is Date... invite your friends along to it."

I won't bore you with news... but I will tell you this... I am rather missing British Reserve (or maybe it was Oxford reserve). At climbing on Thursday, I became slightly unnerved by this big policeman guy Ray who was getting a little bit too up-close-and-personal with me... and in front of his girlfriend! like sure I wanna know how to turn my knee in and move my weight over or whatever, but I don't want to know THAT much. So I took it all in good humour (I tried) but nevertheless made a beeline for small, non-threatening, geeky-looking com-sci guy who proved to be decent conversation (ie capable of uttering polysyllables and full sentences). Having grown completely unaccustomed to being *relatively* clever - I failed to respond swiftly enough to a now unfamiliar look on the guy's face that said "ooo - clever girl - novelty - so interesting"... next thing this guy calls me and asks me out to dinner - and me I don't know what to do - having not much experience in such things... fortunately I had plans that night - and it rained on Sunday which made outdoor climbing impossible, but now I either have to avoid climbing forever - or tel,l the guy I'm unfortunately chronically attracted to best friends who are in love with other people. Failing that, I am also considering fabricating a story about a girlfriend in another country...not completely improbable...