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.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

the day it rained

Sad news made me very sad yesterday morning.
I was actually pleased that smaller daughter was off school with a cold so I couldn't really wallow -  it's hard to get properly emotional when someone keeps asking for toast with syrup and strawberries and your assistance getting to the next level of Angry Birds.
I imagine this is how mothers the world over keep on keeping on.

I got busy with tax submissions and other frightfully stimulating domestic tasks, popped out to buy some leeks and a bra ... you know, keeping on.

In the background the slow, agonising demise of Zuma churned away ... not for us the excitement of an overthrow, an assassination, a fit of conscience or a public resignation. No, just the living embodiment of the very South African phrase, now now. As in, Zuma is leaving now now. But when exactly remains unclear.
It's hard to drink celebratory champagne in slow disjointed sips. Not good for the bubbles really.
Can you believe it's been nearly a decade since this?

On the horizon thunderheads bubbled up, Google told me 'it's raining in Cape Town, stay dry' and the sun beat down unabated.

Later that evening my lovely parents came for supper.

We had a leek tart, mounds of roasted baby potatoes, beetroot, piles of fresh summery salady things, a fine wine, homemade panna cotta for dessert topped with juicy strawberries and figs, then more figs with blue cheese ... and more wine.
And while we were eating the storm outside got serious.

Thunder, lightning - after dinner we squeezed onto the stoep couch and ooh-ed and aah-ed at the light show playing out around us. At the rain pouring down.
The air got momentarily warmer, as the heat was released from the ground, and then deliciously cool.

My parents dashed out to their car, the girls off to bed, and I sat outside with the last of my wine and just one more fig, listening to the rain, watching the lightning and marveling at how one day can encompass so much.

Even in loss there is gratitude, even in drought there is rain.

UPDATE: He's gone! At 10:55pm on 'Zumatines' Day the old fuck finally resigned! Yippeeee.

Friday, February 02, 2018

camera roll: January

January really does feel like the longest month of the year. At 31 days it's not any longer than a bunch of other months but wow, it really encompasses a LOT.

31 days ago we were on holiday, nursing our hangovers with a long walk beside the ocean, a soft-serve, a swarm of bees and later, fortifying red wine as the first full moon of the year bathed our optimistic new year selves in warm golden light.

Then home, to the reality of the drought - hitting hard - and a dawn patrol of police helicopters, looking for an elderly man who went missing in his canoe. His body was found later that morning poor chap - a suspected seizure while out on the water. Not a bad way to go really. I got a text from my Mum saying 'Hang on to those unseaworthy craft of yours. Dad and I will take a spin in a few years time.'

The only part of our garden I care about keeping alive - my succulent babies doing well on rations of dishwater and leftover dribbles out of the family's water bottles ...

Good eating in January. The glut of fruit and fresh abundance, and the time to prepare and serve pretty, healthy things. All the indulgences of the holiday eating magically remedied (or so we tell ourselves!) in lots of fruit and salads.

Not such a great month for Nacho ... lil' pup finally got spayed after I won the furious puppies v no puppies debate. She was down and out for a couple of days but bounced back remarkably and was soon back to her mischievous self.

On the subject of babies, and mischef ... early beach mornings with my delicious nephew while my SIL and my eldest daughter played at surfing.

Even after Husband and I were back at work we successfully kept the holiday vibe alive (and cheered Nacho up no end) by procuring a second-hand sofa for the stoep. Perfect for lazing and dreaming and pretending we still have endless days for such ...

Goddamn that light is ugly...
There was even a teeny-weeny bit of rain!

And I discovered that the sound of water running into our storage tank actually brought a lump to my throat.
It doesn't take much to bring a lump to my throat lately.

My last pic of January 2018. Little old lady cat in the afternoon sun. Deaf as a doorpost, as cranky as always, only happy when she's lying tight up against me at night. Still my sweetest first baby.

31 days later the full moon rose again, but this time we weren't watching is ascend all chilled and wine'd up with buddies. This time we were chasing deadlines, and children to bed before school. A brief glance out the window, roused in the night by a glare to the eyeballs.
Same moon, same month, feels like a long, long few weeks in between.

And now, as experience shows, the year starts galloping along. Shew this crazy life.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

the great thirst

It sounds like a David Attenborough episode - The Great Thirst - maybe the one in which we watched in horror as a baby elephant slowly shriveled away and died because the rains didn't come in time?

Or maybe it sounds like a sci-fi movie - The Great Thirst - in which water is a dwindling resource and one of the most beautiful cities in the world is slowly crumbling apart as residents flee and businesses crash because the rains didn't come in time?

Or maybe it's a song - The Great Thirst - a melodic melancholic yearning for water, for lushness ... a cracked and rasping voice singing of dust, drought and despair, because the rains didn't come in time?

What it really is, is our coming reality.

The drought which has been growing in severity for the last 3 years is now well and truly upon us. We have been told to prepare for Day Zero.
(cue music: dunt duh daaaaaaa)
Day Zero sounds even more like a sci-fi movie doesn't it?

And it's hard to believe when you're sitting on the stoep with a block of ice melting in your glass of Chenin and the lake water lapping at your feet ... but as of Friday it is predicted that 21 April (UPDATE: apparently 12 April is the new date) will be the day that our dam capacity will be too low to support the city and the central water system for Cape Town will be turned off - and remain off until the winter rains (fingers crossed) bring substantial water back to our dams - some say this could take 6 months.
Day Zero. For 180 plus days, or thereabout.

How do you prepare for such an event? I mean, WTAF right?

As always, some are luckier than others. As always, people start showing great creativity and resourcefulness in times of trouble.
And, as always, one realises pretty quickly how much less one can use, how much more one can do without.

Laundry, while we still have water, gets done on shorter cycles, capturing the rinse water and using it for the first wash of the next cycle (thank goodness for top loaders).
Toilets, while we still have water, get left to only be flushed two or three times a day, and never with potable water, always with grey (thank goodness for our shower over bath and how easy this makes capturing all shower water).
Dishes can be wiped with paper towel, faces (and hands and feet and well, everything) can be wiped with face wipes, clothes and bedding can be hung out to air and reworn/reused, cars can stay dirty, windows smeared and opaque, houseplants can live on dribbles of leftover tea, hair can be sprayed with dry shampoo, corn and pasta and potatoes can be boiled in the same water, which once cooled can nurture a few more potted plants. Lawns can die. Swimming pools can sink and fester. Floors can survive with a good sweep and a spot clean.
Middle-class civilisation can do without all the perceived trappings of normality and convenience. We can survive more than we think.

But it's not easy. Lugging water is hard work, thinking about water use is time-consuming, continually reminding children to conserve water requires a delicate balance of making sure they're doing their bit but not freaking them out with too much doomsday hype.

And yet this drought is the greatest illustration of white privilege ever - just down the road from us live hundreds of people who have NEVER had a home with running water, a flush loo or a hot tap. Queuing for water, going without, going dirty, is a daily reality for millions of families around the world.

I get to sit on my stoep with a chilled glass of wine and puzzle this out. I have a rain tank (albeit empty) which (hopefully) will fill when the rains come (fingers crossed) and give us water before the taps come back on, I have family with a borehole, resources to buy and transport 25l water drums back and forth once a week to collect water from them for cleaning and flushing, I can buy bottled water, I can take my family out of the city to have a break from it all should it come to that.

As my girlfriends and I like to remind ourselves as we puzzle out the daily conundrums of living with minimal water, as we swap tips and advice and support each other - after this, for there will be an after this, we will be fucking hardcore. And our taps will come back on, and we will remain the lucky ones.

Husband went to Johannesburg on business for a day, brought back some water for our weekend whisky ice.
Good husband.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

house of eels: july 2017*

It's officially a thing: our annual weekend away with this lot.

One of our party (not me, which is part of the treat) is ace at researching and finding out of the way yet fully lux and intriguing venues and, crucially, taking charge of rallying us all to find a free weekend, paying the deposit and getting us all to commit.
Another (again, not me!), takes on planning a menu, doing the shopping and packing and arriving with all the scrumptious supplies we'll need for 3 days of feasting and drinking like kings and queens.

Always dog and kiddie friendly, always comfy and a little decadent, always perfectly structured to accommodate our growing gang.
This year we had babies, one human and one furry ...

And this year, as with the last two, we had the best time - full of wine and friends and magnificent meals and adventures, and did I mention wine?

And hangover strategies ...

... and enough wholesome outdoor activities for us not to feel too bad about them.

*After my last post I've done a lot of thinking about all the wonderful moments 2017 gave us, and feeling amiss for not recording them here. I'm going to play catch-up a little, because 2017 wasn't all bad, and it'll do well to remember that.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

into the wild

I really have no idea what to expect from 2018. I probably feel like this every year, I don't recall - but this year I feel it stronger than most.

2017 was so full of blindsides, left field curve balls and side swipes. 2017 shook my default optimism, and taught my heart to be cautious. It ripped me open and it left scar tissue - some still raw and wary, some hardened and tough. In places the wounds are still open.

This seems like overly-dramatic, symbolic, talk - but it has been an intensely physical experience for me, managing grief and stress in a way I've never had to before. I have felt it, in my heart, in my body, as present as an actual bruise or graze - it hurt.

I am mistrustful of 2018.

I am expecting some career flux too. Parameters may be changing and I might need to tackle that at some stage this year.

I'm feeling okay about that. Calm. Not quite unfuckablewith (sometimes, if I'm lucky, I feel like that when I'm hell-for-leather working), but good.

And there will also be home.
For this part, I am excited.

The last couple of years I've managed to tackle sizeable home projects (usually in a big rush at the end of the year ...) and am looking forward to maintaining the momentum. We have so many huge projects we'd like to get to, but there are plenty of baby steps to be taken in the interim, I'm planning to take more.

But most importantly, of course, is that home is where my people are.
The girls are just getting more interesting every day - this holiday there's been snorkeling and piano-playing and a milkshake date with a boy (and mother and younger sister, oh and bestie for good measure), and discovering Keeping up with the Kardashians (how crap is that title actually, besides everything else), and game playing and long chats and cuddles ... Before Christmas we were at a friends and for a few hours it was just the 4 of us on our mate's deck, in the pool, in the sun - we joked and laughed like old friends, friends who knew each other well but still enjoyed being surprised. It was a golden moment, with so much promise for moments to come.

2018 can be full of those please.
Here we go ...

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

end-of-year staff party for 1(000)

This year I'm throwing a staff party. I've not had one before, being just little ol' me (and the dogs) in this cavernous office filled to the brim with utter crap.

I don't get invited to Husband's either anymore - since 'the recession' most corporate do's are sans partners.

But this year I decided I especially deserve one, and so I've planned (disclaimer: not 'planned' in the professional sense, just in the sense of bought a ticket - in JULY I might add!) a little soiree ... just me, and about 1000 other crazy cats seeking oblivion and a serious change of scenery ...

Pic from Vortex website - I'll have my own soon :-)
It's been some years since I've been to an outdoor party - probably about 15 truth be told - but I'm sure it's like riding a bike right? Right?

And these days darling, I'm all about the creature comforts. No slumming in a badly-erected 2-man tent in the full sun with nothing but (cheap) vodka and (stale) Niknaks to sustain me. This time I'm creating a boudoir (or should that be a boud-car?) in the back of our Jeep: a proper mattress, throw cushions, fairy lights, I'm still thinking frothy white bedding although I've been told that I'm mad.

Something like this ...

A fridge for fresh milk and salads and beer (I'd love to take wine but there's a no-glass policy and I have standards these days, standards).
A stack of books, mozzie repellent and a good night cream.
A comfy camping chair, a parasol perhaps. A week's supply of wet wipes ...

If I'm going to be the old lady of the party I'm going to reap the benefits of my experience and spending power by being the enviable old lady - the one who is having a blast, and then retiring to her boud-car for an ice cold drink, a fresh little snack and maybe a nap.

This is how I envisage it anyway ... we shall see ...

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

pincushions + memories

We recently spent a weekend with all my family on the banks of a river which, I think, possibly makes up part of our DNA.

Thirty years ago we were the children immersed in this river, hunting tadpoles, logging hours of exploratory water therapy, learning to swim and navigate rocks and rapids and the boundaries of our own imaginations.

We know its wide still pools of quiet introspection, the deafening thrills of adrenaline-fueled rapids, the places where the reeds close in and the river fills your ears and you could be all alone on the planet with just the dragonflies and the occasional plopping frog for company.

We remember how just up from the river bank the air instantly warms, the scent changes to that of the heat-baked fynbos and ones ears fill with the buzz of cicadas and the wind through the proteas, the river a distant murmur.

Everything is still just as our childhood selves remembered it, but this time with a few additions.

New members - sisters-in-law and grandchildren - new family dynamics, and new cottages in which to dry out, refuel and suspend time.

My parents realised while we there that it was almost exactly the 40th anniversary of the first time we camped there - under a tarp then. Stories of leopards and friends and fires and floods, 'do you remembers' and 'who was that' and 'no I didn't!!'.

The river remembered us, we remembered each other in a different time. We beamed at each other over cheesecake and pincushions and, again, counted our lucky, lucky stars to have grown up in such a beautiful place. To be here still.

Monday, November 13, 2017

under the jacaranda

I've recently finished a monster of a job in Johannesburg.

I was contracted through a long-standing client to do the logistics on a high-level meeting of, originally, 80 experts from around the world. And by around the world I mean really around the world - Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine, Macedonia ... 20 different countries all in.

Rapidly, as these things are wont to do, our numbers burgeoned beyond 80, making the group too big for the main auditorium in the venue we'd booked - the historic and poignant Liliesleaf Farm.

'But we have to have it there!' they cried.
'Well we can't bloody do it inside,' I replied.

6 weeks later...

Negotiating the precarious space between budgetary constraints and expected outcome I worked with the venue, engineers and external suppliers to put together a tented space on the grounds, under the flowering jacarandas, the territorial hadedas and the hot early summer sun.

It looked great on paper and when I flew up a few weeks earlier to do a site inspection it all mapped out well, in theory. But on the Sunday before the meeting, as the tent went up - more open on the sides than the pictures I'd been shown - and the plastic-tile 'floor' went down - on a bumpy lawn which had not in fact been mowed despite assurances that it would be - and the chairs were delivered - and unceremoniously dumped in a corner of the lawn, all 120 of them - and nothing was quite as it should be, far from it in fact - I stood on that bumpy lawn and wondered what to do first: throw-up, change my name, book a flight to Abu Dhabi .... I thought I might cry.

Instead I started unpacking 120 chairs, and vented my frustration at the first supplier who crossed my path, quietly informed my client that it was fine, but not ideal, and checked the weather forecast for the bazillionth time in 24 hours.

The next day I was there by 07:00 and already things started looking better. With cushions on all the chairs and the big plasma screens in place and the fresh morning air - it felt serene and controlled. I watched from the lawn as the Big Boss arrived in her chauffeur-driven car ... she came slowly down the hill toward me as I stood there taking deep breaths, braced for whatever might be rained down upon me ...

'I love it.' She said, spreading her arms wide as she approached. 'Meeting under the trees, it's the African way.'
I thought I might cry again.

3 days of meeting in a dappled green, outdoor space, 3 inspiring days of ideas and information, people stepping out of the tent to stretch their legs and ending up stretched out on the lawn, still listening and engaging. Not a chill breeze or a drop of rain or a dusty gust to distract them. Just the creak of the trees, the occasional cry of the birds and the warmth of a few perfect African days.

That spirit went back to Jordan, to Indonesia, to Pakistan and after it was all over, I came home to Cape Town, happy and exhausted. I love my job, mostly ;-)