Wednesday, May 09, 2018

late season camping

I'm not sure how it is that we often end up camping in April. It seems quite late in the season and the chances of being rained on (we were) or it getting really cold at night (it did) are fairly high.
Nevertheless, we often camp in April.

We are of the get dirty, don't brush hair, sleep in, play with bugs school of campers. It wasn't camping if we don't come home reeking of wood smoke, with mountains of laundry and a couple of scrapes and bruises.
However I've also always come home really, really tired. The one thing I don't do well camping is sleeping - this despite us having a super-comfy mattress in our trailer tent - far more comfortable than most people would be on hiking mattresses and the like - but I still struggle. I worry in the night if my babies are cold, if a dog's going to slip away and cause a nuisance in the campsite. I listen to the wind and wonder if we extinguished the fire well enough. I strain to remember if we put the milk away, or imagine I hear the rustle of a small creature in our bread rolls. I wonder if I need a wee and then balk at the thought of getting up and finding shoes ... I wonder if anyone else needs a wee...

But this time, in addition to tons of food and warm clothes and swimsuits and first aid and and and ... all the other camping clobber, I packed ...  sleeping pills.
And that my friends, made all the difference.

Fabulous long weekend camp with old friends, lots of sleep, great food, some sunshine, some rain (ha ha quite a lot of rain), one stinky sewer, a full moon, some cows and a chameleon named Steve.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018


Much has been written about how women of a certain age gain an indisputable confidence and general whatever-fuck-you attitude.
Much has been written about whiteness, and how one of the undeniable privileges about being white is gaining access to all kinds of places without anyone questioning your validity for being there.
There's also been a few things written about Dutch courage, and the kind of bravado which can only be found in the bottom of a wine bottle.

This is a tale in which all of these collide ...

'Twas friend Y's birthday and three of us popped out to a nearby wine farm for a little fancy dinner of a rainy Wednesday evening.
En route we passed a mammoth big glass building - finally completed after months of building and traffic disruption - and noticed a little soiree happening inside.
'Is that my surprise birthday party?' quips friend Y.

We proceeded to dinner - a delightful selection of small dishes of fancy delicious things - and two very nice bottles of a wine which was not called 'Panties' despite my dinner mates continually referring to it as such. Lots of giggles, some silly selfies in the parking lot and we were on our way home thinking we'd had the most fun the evening had to offer ... until we passed back past the big glass building, and decided to just 'pop in'.

We swung in the gates and through the doors with all the self-assuredness of 40-something white ladies two bottles of wine down. And nobody stopped us.

Not one of the black-tie, ball-gowned, silver-heeled, well-oiled guests, nor any of the beefy, bull-necked, bruiser security-types even tried to stop us. Not even that slim black-clad blonde lady in the middle pic who turned out to be the gallery director and definitely gave us some quizzical glances dared actually approach us.
We were in sneakers for gods sake, but we were wearing them with a mighty confidence.
We were pigging out at the divinely decadent dessert table - the only people pigging out there I might add (I'm pretty sure the staff were on to us then) - and nobody even thought to engage us in conversation and find out who the heck we were.
We were taking photos and giggling at artworks and clearly misbehaving at the sponsors wall - but we got away with it.

Turns out it was the art event of the year. Turns out it was the patron's evening before the soft opening before the hard opening before the VIP opening of Cape Town's latest ra-ra gallery and art collection. Turns out it was quite a big deal.

Don't ever think old gals don't know how to have fun.

Monday, May 07, 2018

camera roll: April

April. I like April, always have.

At the beginning of the month I astounded myself - and a few others I think - by passing my motorbike drivers licence on the first attempt!
My learner's licence would expire in June and I was determined to get my drivers before then. Buying a gorgeous new bike was very motivating (more about that later) and while I was still not working to any extreme deadline and had the time I decided to get it done.
3 hours at the traffic department to book the appointment, a 3 hour training session with a highly-recommended local motorbike training school, another hour or so arsing about in the road outside our house practising emergency braking and stuff - and I got it. Yippee!

Awetumn continued in all its magnificence. I don't think I'll ever tire of taking photos of this view. I've been thinking I should be collating them somehow ...

My wee nephew turned one. Actually he turned 1 in March but everyone was away and his party delayed by a few weeks. My sister-in-law asked her mum to make a sugar-free cake - and this was the utterly amazing result!
All the elements came to his beach party in various tupperwares to be constructed on site - watermelon, sweet melon, pineapple, dragon fruit (totally tasteless, but very pretty), kiwi, grapes, gooseberries, naartjie, strawberry, pomegranate. It was so delicious and indulgent, and very, very impressive!

Frieda and I squeezed in another night away with my parents in Betty's Bay. We'd so enjoyed our stay there before that we had to get out there again while they were still in residence.
We left on a Saturday morning - the plan was for both girls to go with me -  but Stella was dragging her feet, still sloughing around in her pajamas when I was ready to leave. 'Actually I think I'll stay with Dad' she declared. And so she did. We split 50/50 and I had a great time with just my big girl, Stella and her Dad an equally good time without us. Funny that we hardly ever think to do that, but so good for us all. 

23 April - first fire of the season! It was lovely (especially for dogs) and got us all excited about cooler days and wintery delights.

Of course being Cape Town that didn't actually mean it was winter yet. We've still had glorious still sunshiney days.
A national bus strike left me without childcare for a week or so, necessitating doing the school lifts myself, and reminding me how fun it can be to kill time between pick-ups with just one daughter and a slushie at the harbour down the road from the school - spotting seals and boats and cheeky seagulls.
I'll never need to be reminded of how lucky we are to live here though, and be able to do these things on an arbitrary Tuesday afternoon.

And then some REAL rain, bringing joy to all our hearts. The 5000l rain water storage tank we installed in mid December is finally nearly full! It's only taken nearly 6 months ...
Apparently good rain in April sets the tone for the rest of winter, we're holding thumbs this is the case!

And then, just at the end of the month, this little girl turned 1. Nacho the Naughty she is - from a very mild-mannered puppy she's become quite headstrong and stubborn, chewing furniture and any unattended toys. We've had to be very vigilant of late, but we still love her to bits and she's a real member of the family.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

betty's bay

Back when Day Zero looked like it was going to be a real thing my parents took a rental on a house near the sea for the month of April, thinking they could work remotely and still have regular showers. That we could come out to do our laundry and wash our hair on the weekends.

We've staved off Day Zero for this year at least, but they kept the rental, and the girls and I joined them out there for a few days last week during school holidays.

How to set a Frieda trap: leave a Gary Larsen omnibus on a window seat scattered with comfy cushions.

In Betty's Bay the sea is crisp and clean, the smell of it fresh in your nostrils, the sound soothing to your ears. Kelp undulates gently on the swell. White beach pebbles canoodle with crisp seaside plants and shards of mother-of-pearl, yellow-orange lichen and dark green milkwood trees.
The clouds come easily over the mountain, casting a gloom which enhances all those colours, all those smells, making the world feel more subtle, more cosy, less exposed.
It's a good place to recoup, to hide out for a bit.

We were joined there by my 'god-sister'. Daughter of my god-mother. For an irreligious family we take this bond seriously and Caitlin has been family for as long as I can remember - literally. She was 8 when I was born and tells how she was SO EXCITED until she realised that I didn't really do anything much. She remembers asking her mum if I was ever going to be fun?
She was a big sister figure for most of my childhood and when I was 18 or 19 I would stay with her in her digs in the big city - a huge adventure for me - while attending Winter School at the University and flexing my baby wings.
Caitlin lives in NZ now, I last saw her at my wedding 14 years ago, but she's been home to celebrate her 50th birthday and it was wonderful to spend time with her, and share her with my daughters.
She's still a big girl, with long dark brown tresses and an easy giggle.
The best people are the ones with whom time has no dominion.
The best places too.

camera roll: March

March just blew by in a bit of a blur to be honest. Most of the month was spent feeling very much out of things, not myself at all, just trying to keep head above water really.

I read a lot of books and watched a lot of mediocre TV. I cried by myself, with others and while reading books and watching mediocre TV. I kept to myself a bit. One doesn't like to burden others with ones gloominess, there's a feeling of needing to maintain a stiff upper lip, but there's also the inability to to do so, or even really care ... sometimes it seems easier to just keep to oneself.

Awetumn arrived in all it's annual loveliness. And dogs (even naughty ones) proved to be a very comforting balm to the soul. I spent a lot of time admiring both.

There was of course, a birthday, and then another one a week later for my dearest friend's daughter. Both were hard, but there's nothing somber about gaggles of 8 yr olds, regardless of the circumstance. Both were healing also.

Late in the month we had a magnificent thunderstorm. It started with the above sunset which had all the neighbours outside. Gasps, exclamations of delight and shutter clicks echoed up and down the lake. Minutes later the first rumble rolled in and for the next few hours we were treated to an exceptional light show, followed by heavy rain - hallelujah!

The next day I heard from a friend whose car had been struck by lightning, with her in it, while driving down a narrow urban street! In the grasp of an ear-splitting, retina-scorching Faraday Cage all she could think was that an airplane had landed on her car. She came out unscathed - the car's electrics fried, tyres smoking, later a numbing migraine but best of all - a great story to tell!

The month ended with the beginning of the school holidays, a road trip to our friends up the coast. A few days of lazing, catching-up and the best the local sea and vineyards have to offer.

That's our lopsided tent in the background, pitched on our friends lawn. That's the long table at which we spent an afternoon eating delicious food, harvested from the sea down the road and prepared outdoors in the garden by these sweet menfolk of ours. That's the wine we washed it down with, pressed from grapes grown withing a few hundred kilometers from where we sat, made by the hands of the friend sitting with us.
These are the magnificent things of life, the bountiful things, the precious things - it was good to end March being reminded of all this. Life is bitter, but also very very sweet.

Monday, March 26, 2018

owl dreaming

Recently, in the haze of sinusitis and grief, I had two dreams about owls.

In the first I was in my childhood kitchen, from which one could see a lot of big trees, with some very cool people - I don't know who they were, but they were intimidatingly cool.
I could hear an owl, that distinctive two tone intonation, and kept trying to find it in the trees.
'Look, there's an owl.' I'd say.
'Nope,' one of the cool people would say laconically, 'that's an ibis.'
'No, there - look, an owl!'
'Nope, that's a hadeda.'
I'd hear it again.
'Look there, carefully, there's an owl!'
'Nope, that's a bunch of pigeons.'

I woke from the dream feeling irritable and embarrassed, feeling distinctly not cool. And then I realised I could hear an owl, loudly.
An owl must have been on our roof, just above our open bedroom window.
It called over and over again, that beautiful melodic sound which is not very 'wooo whooo' but so indescribable with our available bunch of phonetics that I can understand why we call it that.
I listened to it until I fell asleep again.

Surprise surprise my next dream was about owls too. But this time I could see them. I was in a field, at night, with trees dotted around, and just full of owls.
Owls were swooping between trees, dozing on branches, looking at me with yellow eyes. Curved beaks, variegated feathers, talons, fluffy down and severe 'ears'. Owls eviscerated mice, swooped and caught small bunnies carrying them up into the darkness and certain death.
Owls owls everywhere and always the distinctive call in the darkness.

I woke from this dream feeling peaceful and happy.
It was light outside and the owl on our roof had gone to bed.

I have no idea what any of this means, but I love that intersection between awake and asleep, and I love hearing an owl in the night - it always feels like a gift.

Sunday, March 25, 2018


In the midst of all of that, my baby turned 8!

Stella is an oddball, we know this, so I wasn't so surprised when this was her requested birthday theme ... [insert hysterical laughing emoji]

She built the character from various Lego minifigs and we added the blood and bats etc in Pic Monkey - all under her strict direction.
She handed the invites out at school one morning, a few to kids whose parents I've not met before, and I waited to see how they'd be received. Happily well, by most, with just one little friend being 'unfortunately unable to attend' according to her mother and 'I can't come because I'm not allowed to go to parties were there is evil' according to the little friend herself [insert eye rolling emoji]. Cackle.

It was a much smaller affair than usual. Last year's Pandamonium almost killed us, and in the present circumstances I just couldn't muster the requisite energy for a repeat performance, or even anything close.
With our youngest's just 2 days apart Zahida and I would always plan their parties in consultation - firstly on the date so as not to clash, and then always on ideas and details. We did them very differently, but we both enjoyed party-planning and flexing our creative muscles together, I missed her so much while planning this one.

We did a couple of themed foods ...

Vampire bunny cupcakes - you decide whether those are bloody fang bites or bleeding eyeballs.

And vampire bunny jam sandwiches ... 

And then the cake, which in our history of birthday cakes pulled the biggest stunt on us - the idea was half cutesy bunny / half vampire terror but the intricate fondant face we'd tirelessly built the night before melted off overnight, necessitating husband perform emergency facial reconstruction surgery with the last bit of icing and whatever tools he had to hand just minutes before singing Happy Birthday. I think he did a pretty good job considering.

The beautiful birthday girl plus clean-up crew in the aftermath. She did feel the loss of the huge fiesta we usually pull off, 'I missed that there was no running around in the dark Mum', but had a good time regardless and I hope one day will look back and realise what a tough time it was for us.

Stella is 8 and from here on out it feels like we're officially in the Next Stage. No more smalls in this family. It really, really does happen so fast.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

kick-starting grief

My dearest friend Zahida passed away just over 3 weeks ago. Super aggressive metastatic breast cancer, 14 months from diagnosis.
I'd written that last post some time before I published it. She read this blog and I was torn between not wanting to make the pain any more nuanced for her but needing to write this shit out. I had that in drafts and the Friday I published it she was in hospital, not answering any messages, my only updates were via her sister and part of me genuinely thought I'd not ever see her again.

I did. Twice over that weekend I was lucky enough to see her in hospital. Both times I was summonsed by that dear girl, just me and her family and her husband. We said our goodbyes, we said everything we wanted to say, we laughed together, we cried so many tears, we held hands and said thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

She passed away on the following Wednesday, first thing in the morning, and after the Janazah and the endless messages and calls, after we buoyed her family through the first 48 hours, even after her younger sister and I cleared out her closets and arranged a birthday party for her daughter - can you even conceive of turning 8 just a week after losing your mum? Even after all of that I couldn't really comprehend it.
I still couldn't have the ugly cry.

My body did all the things it likes to do in times of stress. A UTI, eczema and eventually sinusitis. I wasn't sleeping, I wasn't feeling and I wasn't grieving - not properly. I knew it was there, just out of sight, lurking, and I wanted to feel it. I felt so detached from her for not being able to weep.

So on Thursday I did what I'd been putting off, what I'd frankly wondered whether I would do at all.
I wrote the tear-jerker Facebook post, I put it out there. While I was writing it the tears came, and while I read all the subsequent messages and DM's and emails which it triggered I wept and wept.
I kick-started the grief and now it is here. And while it is awful, it also feels good to feel.

It's been just over 3 weeks and I'm still in shock.
We were supposed to be crones together, Zahida and I. Stylish crones of course.
She made me try harder. She opened my eyes and filled my heart. She had the most magnificent laugh. She had the most enormous brain. 
We bore babies together, we cooked and danced and laughed and cried together. 
She filled my home with beautiful things, my life with joy and my head with questions and thoughts I'd never have had without her.
And in the last year she gave me the greatest gift - the honour of walking with her to the edge of the light.
About 6 months ago she said 'Are you sure you don't want to get off here Mols, it's going to be a roller coaster of a ride'.
I didn't once consider it, and I'll eternally be grateful that she allowed me to stay.
I only wish I was as sure how to navigate the world without her.
Miss you friend, miss you forever.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

camera roll: February

February always starts with a bang for me - the last few years at least - I've worked this big conference in the first week of Feb and then only really caught up with myself, my family, and summer in general after it's over.

This February feels like it's been windier than most, apparently this is a real thing because climate change, but we've had a few magical still days - and evenings. Above pic was taken at nearly 8pm, a still warm evening at the lake.

We spent a gorgeous afternoon at Silvermine too - a mountain reservoir where you can just step off soft green lawn and into the cool water. You wouldn't think we were in a drought from either of these photos would you?

The drought churns on, but it seems less likely we'll hit Day Zero this year. That date has been pushed out to 15 July and we have to have some winter rain by then, surely?
How much rain we'll get over winter is unsure though, and we might be back in this same predicament next year. Water restrictions will remain in place.
As a family we've gotten down to 37 litres per person per day - no mean feat. We're quite proud of our stinky, sticky selves.

Apparently, for the first (and last) time in some hundreds of years, February is unique this year in that it had no full moon.
Twice in Jan and again in early March left Feb with just the rinds, not the full cheese. Ag shame.

Back to school is a real thing now, everyone in full swing. Frieda had her first away school camp and came home exhausted, and - pictured above - had a blast in red frock and gold nails at the Valentine Ball. Ooo la la.

This person missed her big sister terribly while she was away at camp and spent all her time pining and wobbling her snaggle tooth.
'I'd love to do something special with you today Mum, because I miss Frieda so much. Maybe something which includes food.'
If there was ever a moment for a fully-loaded waffle ...

Stella has also decided that she and I go running in the evenings. Just to the park and back - a short run/walk/run/walk circuit - but I'm very pleased to be bullied into it. As you can tell, we're not an innately active family ....
But really, what better way to spend a weekend afternoon? Trevor Noah, Philip Pullman, Hunger Games and two ridiculous dogs? Yes please.

And then, on the last day of February, the loss of my dear friend. I'm not ready to write about it here, I'm not even able to face it irl actually. It still feels so surreal.
As I said to someone this week, grief is a gaping chasm in the periphery of my vision, it's there but I'm not ready to look into it yet. I can't.
I can't believe she's gone.

Friday, February 23, 2018

saying goodbye

In 2017 my dog, my brother, and my dearest friend all had cancer.

It was too late for my beloved dog, we still miss her so much.

My brother had 6 grueling months of surgery and chemo, 6 months of physical and emotional distress, and is now in remission and feeling stronger every day. He had his port removed a few weeks back and is slowly becoming himself again.

No one was joking when we said 2017 was a bitch.

For my darling friend it has been a year of surgery and chemo and more. The cancer is relentless.
We have embarked on the long, painful, surreal, beautiful, terrible journey of saying goodbye.

How does one do this? Turns out, like everything else in life it happens despite you. Days follow days and each day the reality grows - simultaneously filling you up and hollowing you out with grief, anger, disbelief and immeasurable beauty.

There is utter screaming rage at this senseless thing - this cunt of a disease which takes so much, which marches on regardless, which is not satisfied to just break the body but must simultaneously break the heart of the person you love as well, inflicting so many different kinds of pain.

There is grief which stares at you blank-faced around corners.

There is fear for the future, for tomorrow and next year. There is horrified disbelief that we live in a world where so many thousands of women die from a disease which is not yet curable.

And there is so, so much love, so much gratitude. So much honesty and freedom in the cavern of pain which allows the space to say 'I love you. I'm so grateful for our friendship. I am not going to be the same person without you. I will miss you forever.'

These are not words I'd planned to say to her for another 40 years, in reality I'd never have needed to - we know this about each other - but I'm saying them now every day, in my heart and in my words. These are the words which we use to stave off the darkness, to keep the glow of love burning brighter, for now.

There is a different kind of pain in finding comfort, a sting of guilt, but I must find peace in the places that I can - and my over-whelming gratitude for her influence in my life is the calmest well in the midst of this sadness.
That I will never say goodbye to.