Friday, September 03, 2010

Its all Greek to me

It was L's birthday. We like to celebrate birthdays if our finances allow. This year his birthday fell on a Monday, and so we chose the Sunday to celebrate instead, and took the long winding road, between the mountains - to the sea.

First stop was Seal Point, scene of much surfing in the past, and even with an onshore wind there was a gentle point break, and a few relaxed surfers, gliding by.

Next was Jeffreys, and, still in search of a sea view we ended up at The Greek, all blue and white decor, and a bone fide Greek in attendance. His daughter was seated at a table near ours, lace miniskirted, spoiling someones baby - they all were, that whole Greek family eating around the table, doing that family thing that Greeks do so well.

I should know, Greeks have been part of my life for a very long time. I chose Maria to be my very best friend when I was just thirteen. She was totally different to everyone else - ivory skinned, with black ringlets and black eyes. Her and her family were beloved to me for many years (and still are)....

I remember their dimly lit house, attached to their cafe (of cause) and the huge tins of olives always open in their kitchen, with slotted spoon with which to scoop up a large quantity of calamata olives when we passed by... Her father dispensing cokes from behind his counter, her mother making lemon soup.

I loved going with them to the Greek Orthodox Church in Port Elizabeth, for Easter. Maria and her sister dressed me for the occasion. They were both exceptionally beautiful and they made me up as best they could, blow dried my relentlessly straight hair, sprayed me with perfume.

Together we sat in the pews, after kissing mother of pearl icons, being showered with gold leaf petals and leered at by virile, swarthy men. We whispered and giggled under the condemning gaze of a flock of black crow woman who stood up front and chanted. We bowed left and right to the sound of unintelligible Ancient Greek and our eyes stung with the incense that rose from the priests' swinging lantern.
Oh how I loved it all!
The wedding crowns in their glass case beside her parents bed, the Parthenon hanging in the lounge, Zorba their dog, the smashed plates later at Evas wedding, the dancing, round and round...

But that wasn't the end of the 'Greek Thing' in my life. During my drop out years i.e. trying to write, trying to dodge the Security Police. trying to make sense of it all... I did my share of waitressing. And I did it in Greek.

Tropicana in Port Elizabeth was where I spent many a long day and many a long night. My free meal was souvlaki, my coffee was not complete without a diamond of baklava. My best tips came from Greek Seaman, whose parties were fuelled by Ozo and kept me working and dodging their hands till the early hours. I have carried laden plates of Greek lamb whilst kicking aside the debri of smashed plates, the powerful aroma of garlic clinging to my clothes for days afterwards. I never drink one of those coffees topped with beaten milk without thinking of Mimi's orders to put lots of 'vrot' on top!

My friends sometimes visited me there while I worked, drawn by the Moussaka, Dolmades, Calamari, Spanakopita and Galatiborika! I served L there a couple of times, when he was a 'seven years older than me man' and I was just a crazy girl, and we laughed over our coffees I'm sure, before he went his way and I went mine.

I ate at Maria's Restaurant in Cape Town when just a girl - L paid but he was still only a friend then, and someone my sister shared a house with. Nearly twenty years later he took me there again on our first official date, and I think I regaled him with Greek tales from my past. We drank wine that lovely Greek way, in kitchen tumblers that you can slam down hard on the table top, when making a point! I remember Greek lamb, falling off the bone soft from being cooked in a clay oven, and piles of olives and garlic.

And now we celebrated his fifty five years overlooking the blue sea of Jeffreys Bay. I ate souvlaki and he succulent lamb, we had plenty of olives, and wine , followed by coffee (with 'vrot') and baklava. We walked on a sand blasted beach before driving home.

Driving home I felt it might be time for me to watch 'Mama Mia' again. For the Abba adolescent memories, but also for the blue sea, the white buildings clinging to the hillside - for Greece.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Life in the Son

Here comes the sun (tum ti tum ti)
Here comes the sun
And I say
Its all right
(tum ti tum ti ..)

The feeling of Spring in the air always makes me sing.
The truth is.....

I love the sun
I love the Son
(a happy English coincidence)

In England I suffered from S.A.D. That's sun affected disorder. My African brain could not function properly without light. Up in the frozen north I saw very little light. The days were short, the nights very long. I felt like I was wading through a thick soupy fog.

I needed the sun
I needed the Son.

Without the sun I get sad.
I started making handmade patchwork quilts because of it. I sat under a daylight bulb and stitched away at patches of bright colour. The doctor told me that colour and light would kick start the serotonin in my brain, and make me happy again. It worked.

I need light to be happy.
I need the Light to be happy.

I made a point of using cotton fabric cut from friends' old clothes for my quilts. Now they serve as friendly reminders. They are also reminders to me at the moment of the importance to cut out the best bits from everyone and everything in life and stitch them all together. To toss away, as it were, the stained, torn, frayed and faded sections that bring with them no joy, no beauty.

I saw some wool recently, here in Joubertina. The balls of bright colour sat tightly together in a box behind the counter in the second hand clothing store.
I wanted some so badly, especially the bloeisel pink, the spring green, the summer sky blue...
Like a butterfly, spring was beating away inside me.

When money came I bought a bagful of balls. I am crocheting them out in stripes - making a startling blanket to keep me warm when winter comes again.

And anyway, God has been showing me rainbows lately. They seem to be everywhere. A combination of rain and sun. Thats a rainbow.
So I've been thinking that maybe...

Christ is the Rainbow.
The Promise, the Hope - the prism through which all colour breaks forth.

My blanket is a rainbow in the making. I am compulsively, obsessively addicted to it. As it grows under my hands I am excited by all the different colour combinations. Blue next to yellow, pink against green, purple beside orange.

Rain and Sunlight
Tears and Laughter
Winter and Spring
Death and Resurrection Life.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Black Beauty

Black like night.
Black velvet pierced with stars.
Black like jet.
Patent leather shoes with lacy white bobby socks!

Top hats and tails .
A little black dress on Oscar night.
Onyx rings

Black tyres with white walls.
Sleek limousines with black tinted windows.

My favourite wine-gum.

I have always told my children they are beautiful. They are blessed because it is true.
Black is, of cause a political term. No one is really a colour.

In England a group of National Front skinheads once pelted me and my ex husband with snowballs, whilst snarling the word 'Nigger.' I was pregnant and slipping on the black ice on the sidewalk. I remember the white snow against their Doc Martens. White against Black.

On the street in Port Elizabeth in 1990 a man nearly shot my then husband because he assumed he was assaulting me. (His hand was on my arm.) He called him 'Kaffir' and ordered him to move away from me. I remember that his gun was large and his finger was on the trigger. A white finger against black steel.

I thought there were laws in place and these and other names would not be heard again. At least not in public life. I thought people would keep their mouths shut and let these words seethe inside their heads, only.

Not so. In hidden places, like here, there is a freedom I have found to allow inner venom to spill out. To allow hatred to curl from lips and teeth and tongues, to curl into the air. To spiral into my ears, my mind, my heart.

They hurt, these uncaring, unfeeling, cold, stone, dismissive, sword-like, dagger stabbing words.
And White Tiger like, being a mother also, my teeth and claws are showing.

White snow
White lace at weddings
And smooth icing on cakes
White linen on washing lines
Arum lilies growing in glades
Warm white bread
Milk frothing from cows

Oh God
Creator of All

Piano keys play harmony

Black print on a White page
Charlie Chaplin
Black and White movies
Black ties and frilly White shirts...

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Having a ball in Joubertina

I think there is a lot of evidence to show that it is very likely that God is very fond of balls.

We all live on one, for a start - this pale blue dot spinning through space, surrounded by a whole lot of other balls. I remember that wonderful Giglio show all about space. It made me feel really small and God is, of cause, very big.

I have a lot of balls around me right now in the koshuis. Pool balls, ping pong balls, volleyballs and soccer balls. Never mind the rugby ball. I'm fed up with rugby right now, and anyway it's not a true ball...

Years ago I worked in Arcadia, in the days of Apartheid. I was young, with so much passion and vision. I wanted to reach the 'lost' and the 'poor' and the gangsters on the corners, smoking boom. I remember praying fervently for them as they sat there, under their gloomy cloud.
So I went out walking with a ball. I was pretty fearless then, armed with my ball. Those boys were covered in tattoos, not body art, you understand, but 'tjuppies' - the prison variety.

I sat with them there, under the vandalized street signs, and talked balls. That was the beginning of the football team. They, like God, also liked balls.

I am 48 this years and too tired for it all anymore. I try not to regret things but today I do. I regret the walking out I've just done again, with balls. I regret the pool, table tennis and volleyball me and my family started for children here. I regret the fact that someone closed it down after only a couple of weeks because of some childrens' petty misdemeanour. I regret the fact that it seems as though no one really cares...

I regret the regret.

I took on a job to work with food and finances. The only balls in sight were supposed to be a meatball, brussels sprout,onion, beetroot, baby potato or tomato.

Some things should be left well alone, and either I've lost my touch (dropped the ball) or doing work with balls is not what it used to be.

In a place like Joubertina I'm an English, liberal misfit (strangely enough a bit like a rugby ball once was I guess).
I stood up here and shot my mouth off about a whole lot of things. Well, there are more cannonballs and gunshot still out there than I realized. Man made balls, the lot of them. More than my mouth has been shot off.

Balls are fun, except when they come at you. Hard.
I now know how those Goalies felt.

It's not Gods fault. I take most of the blame.
I don't think He ever intended me to do more right now than cook up a storm.

At the moment its all a right balls' up!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Brides and other women

In Twee Riviere there lives a young woman who has a deep desire to create beauty. I have only known her for a year, but in that time she has been responsible for many displays and random and organized acts of delicate and delightful beauty.
To illustrate:

  • towering chocolate cakes and muffins with her tell tale signature decorations of fresh flowers, ribbons and bows
  • Candlelit dances (only glimpsed secretly through a sash window from the outside, whilst skulking in a dark, windswept garden!) with rafters trailing strings of beads and little flashing mirrors, held for all the young adults of the area
  • Dance shows done by the little ones she taught, leading them through a beautiful world of fantasy dresses, and ribbons and bare fairy feet and pretty hair with bows
  • Tea parties all in white, with spread tablecloths under apple trees , serving herbal teas and cupcakes, and all the ladies appearing like white sprites in the orchard
  • herself quite dazzling in a purple embroidered evening gown of her own creation, as if set for a ball, a princess

We were invited to attend her latest special function. She was not alone in this, it being a joint venture with her bosom friend from the Kammanassie.
It was a modeling show and we arrived to seats set outside, under arches created from leaning Amish style scaffolding against the walls of the old stone house. These were, in turn, draped with lengths of flimsy white muslin. Orange carpets were laid down to become the catwalk. It was icy cold, snow topped the surrounding mountains and black clouds scuttled overhead. It was not raining though, and so we all settled down. Many folk from the surrounding farms, workers I mean, ladies only, had been invited.
The show commenced. It had a bridal theme. Young women in bridal outfits, ( a mothers dress, an aunts...) adapted, shortened. All had a sixties sort of theme, featuring little girls in frocks, hair neatly plaited, coronets of flowers, ribbons and leaves. Smiles flashed on little girls faces, showing no front teeth, white shoes too big on little brown feet - all charming.
All the gorgeous girls we know so well now had their moment, very Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffanys ( did they know that?), with gloves and cinched waists, elegance, elegance all.

I sat huddled, yes, cold but enchanted. I thought of how often women are not held in high esteem. I thought how unhappily women are often reduced to nothing by religion, alcoholism or chauvinism which is deeply rooted in belief systems.

Lately I have been doing some reading, mostly the Epistles, where much is said of that other bride. Us. And that first bride, Eve, and how much both were loved, are loved. How they, those brides, were taken out, as it were, first from that first Adam, and then from that second and final Adam.
How adored, how totally adored those brides were, are. So much so that One would die for her.

What romantic dreams all girls have, to be so adored, to be so dressed, veiled, beautiful, to be revealed only for that special man, that beloved one.
My heart ached there, on that icy porch, because I really think all girls are created to be adored. My prayers are only that they all will be - really, really loved one day by their husbands.

Oh to love and be loved!
What a beautiful show it was, created out of nothing.
And for afters, of cause, there were plates of the most pretty cupcakes, a gooey, yummy, scrummy pile of a sticky, cherries and cream pavlova, dainty flower biscuits with silver ball centers and cups of warm tea. Thank you girls.

Hannah and Tess - I salute you!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Disillusionment and other D words

destroy dislike demon disinterest devil death die defeat drivel dentist distaste disease disharmony divorce drugs drunk dislike discontent dump damned dank debt decadent decay deceive decompose decrepit deface defeat deform defunct delude demean demented deny depression depraved deride desperate detest devious diet diarrhea dirty dirge disgrace discourage discriminate disfigure disgruntled distrust doldrums doubt drama drastic

Someone told me the other day that Mother Theresa was, apparently, disillusioned.
I wondered about that.
Good works can be dangerous.

I feel disillusioned.
And I only tried to do a few good works.
Nothing like Mother Theresa.
Someone else said she was bitter.
I feel bitter too.

But maybe its just End of World Cup Blues. Or Beginning of School Blues.
Or working in the Koshuis Blues.

I just read a book called Blue like Jazz.
I feel Blue.
I like Jazz.
The book is about being a Christian. Donald Miller says some great real true things about it all.
I had a good laugh.
Which is just as well because there is not much to laugh about in the Land of the D words.
Which is Life in the Langkloof for us, right now.

We came because we had a Dream To Live Off the Land.
It has become a Nightmare.
To succeed you need lots of Money.
Or lots of Children.
Or be very Young.
Or have lots of Energy...

I am created, it would seem, to be Relentlessly Cheerful.
Apart from the odd Debilitating Depression.
Deliverance comes through understanding that He is in us all through it all -
the Circumstances and Situations of this Rock and Rollercoaster Ride .

I used to put in orders to God.
Mostly about changing things.
I thought God was a Make Over Artist.
Or a Magician performing Magic tricks.
I was into Miracles.
I used the word Must - a lot.
Things have changed.

Now I am a Chameleon Christian.
Colourful. Changing. Cocoon. Chrysalis.
Lately I am exploring the Butterfly within.
I just watched this song about Flying on U-tube. I think it was a Christian song.
It didn't mention God much.
I liked it.

God invented the Alphabet.
He put it into Adam so that he could have fun naming all the Animals.
He programmed us so that we could come up with a multitude of languages around the time of the Tower of Babel.
Sometimes I'm not glad He did because I have to speak Afrikaans.
Sometimes I'm glad He did because it made the World Cup a lot more fun. Although a lot of language was lost because of the Vuvuzelas.
Personally I'm a Vuvuzela fan, although I think they create one of the great divides in the world right now.
Even amongst Christians - some of us are afraid of them because they might be Pagan.
I can't help quite liking Pagan.

The World Cup was a great distraction. Especially from the D words.
Now we only have the Surfing Competition up the road at Jeffreys Bay. Its not the same. There were only one or two Vuvuzelas.
A lot of surfers are Christians.
We used to be part of a great Surfer Church in Kommetjie.
I miss it.
I miss a lot of things.

I've got to move on from the D words. I realize that.
E words do look a lot more euphemistic.

experiment exhilarate exhaust elation expanse ecstasy easy eclipse escape empty emancipate elastic energy explore explosive energy experience expend exchange exodus exit evolve eventful evangelize euphoria entertain enter epiphany epistle epic encore encourage enchant enigmatic enormous emigrate embryo embrace elope eloquent eject elegant egg edit evacuate end

Friday, July 16, 2010

A New Term

I have just taken a stroll through the early morning streets of Joubertina. I went to do the banking. Money was on my mind. After a few steps the icy air had turned my thoughts to the new term, what awaited us and what we might be dreaming of.

The walk also reminded me of England. I never owned a car there and my years at College in Berwick Upon Tweed on the border of England and Scotland were walking years. We used to step out of our stone cottage and take to the high road, winding up and away from the old Roman walled town, to the college.

Down below us wound the River Tweed, strung with its three bridges. The high old Roman aquaduct, now topped with the railway, the trains clattering over it as it strides over the river with big high arches. The trees I remember as mostly bare, the delicate branches of bushes iced over with lacy frost.

It was a schoolroom of cold, and I learnt lessons there about the joys of walking. And here in Joubertina I experience it again in a way, because the mountains around us are topped with snow, and up the road at Avontuur I am told, the snow lies fifteen centimeters deep.

And then I find I am dreaming of surfing, because I often dream of water, and Kelly Slater is down the road in Jeffreys Bay. The sky is wide and that washed out winter blue where the sun is only lemony, and I am still thinking of a still, calm sea as I take the turn across the churchyard and head down the hill towards town.

At the church offices I encounter the Dominee and so come out of my reverie to talk of things, Joubertina things, school things, Koshuis things.
I become aware again of the jingle jangle of the bank packet in my bag. The Koshuis has money worries and I dodge the thought that I have to feed a child three meals a day for R10, or even less. There are so many needs amongst the Koshuis children. We have twenty five children, and they are all poor really, just about all subsidized by the state. Our building is down at heel, with a leaking roof and sagging ceilings, where the water pours through. The girls and boys share a building, upstairs and downstairs where they are sort of supervised and so...

My job description is kitchen and finances only, but I felt for them as they lived there, with nothing to do, no recreation, only study time and a fuzzy, snowy TV crackling away in the corner of the dining room. Ai, things seemed depressing to me, so I wrote a letter and the kind Dominee printed it in the 'kerk' bulletin and sent it out, to those out there, them who have, for those who do not.

I smile now here, on the icy street, when recounting how the children are loving the recreation time we have introduced , made possible by generous gifts from towns folk , where before there was only boredom. I remember the night before, the energy of the table tennis games, the skill around the wonderful pool table. The giggles of the little ones playing with pink ping pong balls as they joyously bounce around the room, getting under foot...
The domino games, played with gestures and expressions surely learned in some other place from adults in another world.

We have pictures up now (the big five) and a carpet, and books to line the walls. We have noise and expectation and energy and life..

And yet - its Friday and I am tired, already.

The truth is when I dream of water, somewhere in there is a sailboat, to sail away on. And thats where I am today, all thoughts of England, and the sea and surfing and sailboats.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Fairest Cape

We have all fallen in love. Again.
To explain - the four of us have just returned from a 10 day break in Cape Town. Enough said.
By way of apology to the Langkloof I add the following. We do not choose those we love in life. It just happens. Love is sneaky. So:
It is not our fault that -

  • we lived in a friends flat on the slopes of Fish Hoek mountain and 
  • the sea was spread out before us everyday like a huge expanse of smooth satin or with straight lines of white tipped waves 
  • or decorated with fluttering hankerchief sailboats 
  • or painted barbie pink and Netherlands orange 
  • or supporting a HUGE grey battleship 
  • or inviting us up a lemon path reflecting a yellow moon leading up to our door...

It is not our fault that -

  • Kalk Bay has lost none of its charm and Olympia Cafe has the same waitrons, dressed by lost property, who still remember us, and served us croissants to that familiar sound of eggs being whisked in a stainless steel bowl.
  • we had the best cappuccinos up a cobbled lane, with the coffee brand written on the foam by a true artist 
  • Kalk Bay has the best bookshop in the world with just enough books on wide wooden shelves ( those huge bookshops overwhelm me so..) It was there that we happened apon an interview with Andre Brink who inspired me by sharing insights about writing, and at 75 has just published his 25th novel - and we sipped wine and nibbled snacks leaning against the bookshelves, the dust of Joubertina still powdering our boots.

It is not our fault that -
  • we have been blessed with the very best of friends who invited us out to dinner, lunch, breakfast and coffee. The sight of their dear faces over tables groaning with food, candlelit, or dappled, lit by sunlight through trees, or dazzlingly lit by sun reflected off the sea...filled us with happiness. What fun they all are, giggling into their wine glasses, or seriously considering a thought , poised over a teapot, or pausing a moment between animated speech to chew that muffin, braaied fish over hot coals, or apple crumble and freshly whipped cream...

It is not our fault that -
  • Cape Town was in the middle of the biggest party ever. Everywhere flags where flying, vuvuzelas were blowing, people were smiling , cheering, laughing... We witnessed the Orange Army on the day they whipped Uruguay, felt the 'gees' were part of the 'Fehvah'. We watched the games on TV, and ofcause we talked soccer, had our favourite players, favourite teams, shared in the agony of Ghanas defeat, the glee of 'Jan van Riebeecks se mense' se victory. In other words - 'die Kaap is Hollands'.

It is not our fault that -
  • my parents are getting older than I can bare, and a day spent with them, and my sisters family and G and J left the sweetest taste on my tongue.(Although the Swedish rhubarb pie with Woolworths Vanilla Custard could have accounted for that.) Watching my Dad watch my two playing soccer with their young cousin under the oak tree, rope swing strung out of the way of the goalposts, is a treasured memory.
  • saying goodbye to the two of them, waving from their gate under the garden light can hardly be thought of without a lump appearing, as it did then, in my throat, so that I could only look ahead, at the road.

It is not our fault that -
  • Cape Town, after an absence of a year feels like home to us, still.

We took the long road home. We needed the many hours to make the necessary shift. We opened our front door to the smell of roses. Our dogs leapt to greet us. Our friend greeted us with joy, as we did her.
But it felt like a seed had been sown. A corner turned. Our eyes are looking back, over our shoulder, but, for the moment, we are here.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

More World Cup Ramblings

Last week an opportunity arose for us to all to go to PE for a couple of days. Oh happy day. The long school holiday had arrived, and just about everyone had left town. Some went off to Mozambique - I believe a fair number of South Africans have formed a laager there...
Others just went off on holiday, like people do.

We, had no holiday plans, extra work awaited us - websights and incomplete novels - none of which we mind, really. But its not like having a HOLIDAY, is it?
And then, three days in PE. Whoopee!

Snow in the Langkloof
As we drove out along that winding valley road the mountains were covered in snow all around us. I had threatened L that if he said he was cold one more time I was going to...
The Langkloof is cold. Not Cape Town cold, not Grahamstown, Karoo or Joburg cold. It is #$@!

Ja well, no fine, I thought, PE is never really cold, casting my mind back to a childhood of winters spent in lightweight jumpers and takkies, maybe. Well, the worlds climate is doing that warmer, colder, nothing is as it used to be, thing.
It was like being in England, only with no central heating. Still, that together with the World Cup Fevah (hurrah) happening around us - at last! - made me think back to my years in Newcastle - Upon - Tyne.
Newcastle is definitely a football mad city. In my years there I has to shape up to football, or ship out. There, everyone always and only ever wears the black and white football strip. Even in the middle of winter, with no jacket. During my work in schools it was hard to get the children to draw anything or be creative in any way that did not include black and white stripes. The Toon Army was alive and well and marching around us. We lived so close to the stadium that when they scored a goal we were swamped in a huge wave of a roar. Thank God they had no vuvuzelas!

Being back in PE also set me to thinking of my days in Arcadia when I had my own football team - unfortunately at the same time as Winnie Mandela had hers. The only Stompies we knew though were all those thrown from my Mazda 323, whilst driving down the highway loaded with at least 10 large football 'ouens'.

I wander where they all are now. They chose the Brazil strip as their own, and I spent many a Sunday morning watching them play Industrial League on that pitch at the Airport, now so bedecked with flags and a silver half skeleton of a football that lights up at night!
Ja, those were the days, inbetween riots, when I rode into Arcadia early on a Sunday to haul the boys out of bed, red eyed and 'getrek' or 'gerook' to come play football. I myself was pretty hung over some mornings, being single then, and out late myself on a Saturday night.

We watched quite a few games during our three days, enjoyed the Portuguese fans and the odd assortment of those supporting Ivory Coast, who, down at the beachfront were a motley crew of students, in various orange apparel. Fun, fun, fun - oh to be young!

We were happy to see the sun come out before we left, walking at Pipe, where the sea still belongs to only 10 surfers, and the water in winter is warmer than Kommetjie on a hot day! Memories, memories, for L and me, and as we wound through those lush hills around PE, where the horsey set live I felt at home. I remembered long outrides on horseback, down, through the bush to the beach, to gallop along the waters edge, white spray flying.

We spent hours exploring rock pools at Seaview, encountering Germans in yellow 'men at work' helmets, picking up shells. All gave a cheery wave.
We did not want to leave, the sun, the sea - and the good World Cup Vibe! Ho hum.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

World Cup Blues

We limped into the end of term like wounded soldiers, the survivors of a long hard battle. Our children were battle scarred too, after having written the first proper exams of their lives. We awaited their results with some trepidation, and the reports were a true reflection of their efforts. Where they had studied they did exceedingly well, where they had not the results were mediocre.

They have always been home schooled, and we never did exams, we hardly did tests. I don't personally think exams are a true test of knowledge, but there they are, in this reality. Sooner or later they confront us, to get that end of school certificate, to get that degree, to drive that car...

Our children opted out now and then over the three week exam period, seeming to want to ignore the whole thing, lazing on their beds reading Tintin, the afternoon before Biology, or playing touch rugby (Georgia) the afternoon before Social Science!

L and I freaked out - well, me mostly - the thought of failure appalls me, even making a phone call to the ex, to put extra pressure on. I wonder now what all the fuss was about - putting it all down to Joubertina cabin fever. My word, this town makes me lose perspective!

So, yes, off and out we went again, as soon as we could. Another day trip to PE. How I love taking that long road, between the two ranges of mountains. The children came with us this time, a little under duress, but I insisted that they needed to leave town. Signs of Langkloof Rust were beginning to show.

We found PE all abuzz with World Cup Fevah! Oh what joy. I perked up immediately, embarrassing my family by insisting on buying a South African Flag, to set it fluttering gaily from our car window.
In the Langkloof one has to search very hard for the faintest sign of anything to do with the World Cup. Some folk are downright anti the whole thing, refusing to show the slightest interest. Others seem to be of the opinion that football is only for one particular race group - of which they are not part! And then there are those who adore only rugby, and its as if by showing any enthusiasm for football they are being traitors - or worse.

Ho hum. It saddens my heart. We were so excited in PE that day, glimpsing something of the excitement still to come. We hung out at the beachfront, like we always do, eating those burgers from our childhood, and of cause, those choc dip ice creams that bring back so many memories.
We returned to Joubertina with a heavy heart, like a bunch of folk who knew that there was going to be a helluva party and they hadn't been invited.

The morning of the 11th dawned, to find me very glum. L had done his very best to get us hooked up to SABC 1 just for the games - with no success. I hung up my washing that morning with a heavy heart. Dumping the laundry basket and lamenting loudly that it seems to be my destiny to miss all the SA biggies. Overseas and just having given birth on the date of the first democratic elections. We travelled to Glasgow (it was my ex's first time to vote - ever!). It was cold, bleak and the polling station was empty. How we longed to travel to London - but it was too far, with a week old baby and a Cesarean scar. And then there was that great rugby world cup and we were still overseas - and now this!
Joubertina is worse - I wailed - worse that being in Great Britain.

But along came the Dominee - to the rescue - as he so often has done, during our life here. He was throwing a World Cup party at his house - hurrah!
Granted I probably knew the most about Footie than anyone there. But all were enthusiastic, engrossed , and yes, we even got to blow our vuvuzela and wave our flag! I felt tipsy on a couple of shandys, crisps and chicken pie, but we stayed late and went home happy, walking alone through the silent misty streets of Joubertina.

Over the next few days a few more flags came out, one or two vuvuzelas sounded in the distance. A platteland dorp might be the place to be for a couple of occasions, but a Football World Cup is not one of them.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


The school Kermis happened last weekend. We were very busy and a trifle stressed - and to top it all I had flu. Looking back I think my flu added something to the Kermis experience. I have always been one who suffers from fevers. Rudolph Steiner is very positive about all that - saying something along the lines of fevers helping on to move from one milestone to the next. I think I believe him.

I had been asked to do decorate Grade 10's stall - the Teetuin - probably because I bailed when it came to having any talent in baking - peppermint tert, melk tert, souttert or any other tert. I went at it with a will, basically packing up my kitchen, and raiding others' farmyards - stating that the theme was going to be 'Shabby Chic' or 'Oumas Kombuis' or something along those lines.

L and I arrived to set it all up at 6 in the morning. It was still dark and I was coughing, but we both felt a strange excitement, which we realized, watching the pink and orange sun rise, was because we felt like we were on a shoot. With the car piled high with decor bits and pieces, we could have been rushing ahead of the actors, cameramen and crew - memories of another life lived, not so long ago. Still, a teacher arrived with a huge abundance of lavender hacked from her farm garden - which provided the final finishing touches to a rather quaint tea garden setting - even if I do say so myself. Feverishly working took on a whole new meaning, and it was only 7 o clock!

I worked at that stall until about half past one, dimly aware that I was surely doling out my virus with just about every cup of coffee, tea and slice of lemon meringue I served. I doubt if I have ever spoken Afrikaans so well, it peeled effortlessly off my tongue, together with some English for the visiting few.

L slaved away over a hot braai all day at Grades 7's stall. I wandered over at some point seeking anything that was not sweet and we shared a sosatie amongst the smoke. By 2 I was feeling pretty grim. We had sold out every slice of every tart or cake, and I had been released to teeter to the side lines to watch the match of the day - the first rugby team playing some school from PE. I don't, as a rule do rugby, but somehow a casual glance turned into total involvement, and I found myself joining THAT mother (every school has one) who paced the line cheering like a banshee. Only I was hoarse to begin with, but I joined my croak where I could. Probably it was because of 'my' koshuis boys who were playing and I care about, suddenly. It all ended in fisticuffs and a yound lad being carried of on a kermis table with his neck in a brace in the true spirit of the game. He is okay now, thank God.

I heard from someone before I left, to go and climb into bed, that our stall had won, being the best in terms of decoration. My head was spinning, but I felt absurdly happy about that as I sank down into the pillows.

This Saturday morning saw us rising up to attend yet another Fees - this time in Misgund. Autumn is busy being particularly fine and we drove the half hour, with orchards turning yellow and red on either side of the road. All these fairs are Harvest Festivals really, held by the NG Kerk in the small dorpies, and the Misgund Fair was no different. We bought pockets of oranges very cheaply, homebaked bread and the obligatory roosterbrood, pancakes and bakkie of curry and rice. We sat with friends and drank coffee out of styrofoam cups, while Georgia cheered on the first netball team which all her friends play in. The music was loud , and is the one thing I struggle with. Platteland dorpies have a certain taste in music which takes me back to those 'Springbok Hits' records of the 70's - something I had pleasantly forgotten - until now. L and I had enough pretty quickly, but we left Georgia to hang around and hitch a ride home with a friend. Looking back I saw her with her new gang, demonstrating her skill in throwing up popcorn and catching it in her mouth!
There is little sophistication in the Langkloof, I thought, regretting not having had a portion of 'Bazaar Pudding'. Never mind, there might be another Fees next weekend, and we will be there.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Home and away

Things are hotting up here in Joubs. Life, in a small town can get claustrophobic, especially when you, your husband and your children all 'work' at the same place. The school and the koshuis (the foodhouse - how appropriate!) are consuming us all at the moment.
A month to go until it all closes down, but till then we have to get through
- teething problems at the koshuis (I am being euphemistic here - you understand!)
- writing exams (the children)
- setting exams (L)
- practical drama exams (yours truelly)
- marking tests, tasks and exams (my darling L)

So, last weekend we headed out, L and I. For weeks I had been muttering about needing to be in a city, be amongst people I don't know....
And whining on about seeing the sea, like some landlocked sailor, or wind blown seagull tossed way off course.
A solution presented itself - a meander to Port Elizabeth. We left the children, they had no desire for shops, or even for sea breezes. I am very fond of PE, having grown up there. It is, as someone said, a ten minute city, although many also say that they lose direction there, get lost. I could never get lost, feeling it is only those Capetonian types who are used to steering their vehicles by the rudder of that huge mountain that get disorientated.
Port Elizabeth has only a blue sky horizon, but I love its hills and kloofs gashing their overgrown, green way through its centre, under bridges and cutting relentlessly through suburbs.
I am not a shopper, and I was no sooner in a mall than I wanted out. Out, out to the sea again....the wonderful sea and the sky.
L and I ate fish and calamari and drank wine in a sort of swanky restaurant with a glorious view of the sea, so close we could smell it! And towards the end, with my head light from wine and sea air ,I too leant on the balcony railing as a pod of over 50 dolphins blessed us with their presence. I watched them, as others ran down to the waters edge, and stopped there, unable to get closer. Wonderful, untouchable they were, arching over the waves, unconscious perhaps, but everyone thought they had come just for them, probably, before they headed out to the deep sea.

Anyway Port Elizabeth was never going to be big enough for me right now. I think I have a longing for a place like London, Paris, maybe even New York!

But nothing like that is possible right now, so we returned, having found a Twee Rivieren friend parked in the carpark next to us. Home was definitely not far away.

This weekend was the Krakeel Bazaar. The dominee told us it is not to be missed. That morning we took too long, arriving at 11 when it had started at 10. Just about everything was sold out. But Krakeel is a pretty place, apart from its entrance through the poverty area, but the houses are quainter that Joubertina, the church hall all old stone, with a huge shady tree. We bought braaivleis and roosterbrood, all other tables were stripped bare, everything having miraculously vanished. Still, the company was good (Krakeel attracts, it seems, some 'kunstig' folk ), and we settled down on kitchen chairs outside - like so many people in Provence, and waited for the auction to begin. It was an amusing one, obviously providing an event whereby the locals can make largish donations to the church by paying R700 for a very ordinary tart, or R250 for a bottle of outlandish green witblitz.
A friend of ours bought one of those bottles, and we all sniffed it, before the daring amongst us sipped some from the bottle lid ( the sun was only just over the yardarm...) They declared themselves disappointed, the sip not having delivered the expected kick of a mule. They muttered that they expected that only peppermint flavour had been used - the dominee was particularly down at the mouth!

We had to leave early, exam papers awaited us.
It might not be New York, I thought to myself, but in terms of a cultural experience this life rates quite highly.
Tucking into my cold chop and roosterbrood at home I felt quite satisfied, and determined to have some of that green poison next time I visit!

Thursday, May 06, 2010


We now officially live in Joubertina - or Joub Joubs as we affectionately call it. Thats a surprise - for us ,I mean. We never intended this to happen. We came to the Langkloof to live in Twee Rivieren. We left Cape Town for Twee Rivieren. Our dream, our road led there. Our path, we believed, led there. Joubertina was just the nearest dorp, a mere 5km away, a place we would buy supplies. Nothing more. It just goes to show...

Joubertina is not a pretty place really. It is flanked by wonderful mountains on either side, the Tsitsikamma and the Kouga, and deeper in, the Baviaanskloof. The main street is forsaken, litter strewn. There are no tree lined sidewalks, like other dorps, no quaint shops. The signs are mostly those red ones, sponsored by Coca cola. The shop fronts are uninspired. No broad stoeps here, no broekie lace, no shady tables under trees.

We have lived in Greyton. Picture postcard perfect as it is, one wanders down the oak lined lanes, browses in the many interesting shops, sips real capuccinos at a variety of restaurants and coffee shops. Not so Joubertina.
In search of koeksusters the other day, I went and stood in the queue at the take out chip and burger place where they are available, freshly made from a stainless steel bowl next to greasy frankfurters. I was surrounded by people from Africa, maybe Zimbabwe, Malawi or South Africa. I loved it, paper strewn, jostling, loud. Many, I suppose, would not.

Joubertina is that kind of place. A koeksuster kind of place - bought at the greasy spoon on the main road.
Actually you really have to know the locals in order to know where to buy things.
I have compiled some examples to clarify:
- the most beautiful bunch of exquisitely fragrant roses (VERY cheap - I believe) bought for me by L from the local hairdresser.
- homemade rusks, aniseed or buttermilk - we buy weekly from the shop that also does hair (a different hairdresser), sells coffins , milktart, bully beef and organises my contact lenses!
- the cheapest and best cheese is to be had from the local haberdashery store, who does clothing alterations, serves tea and satisfies all our stationery and small gift requirements.
- one of the best caterers in town takes orders from her place of employment - the bank!
- the cheapest and freshest milk - straight from the cow is available from the hardware store, who also sells second hand furniture. Fresh spinach is also often on offer!
- all laundry requirements are met by a take out shop, advertising pies and chips on a blackboard outside.
- I have found some great second hand clothing from a shop in town, and if there is nothing for me that day I can always buy some homemade jam, wool or fresh herbs in pots!
- immediate medical emergencies are normally diagnosed and prescribed for by the local pharmacist
- all clothing requirements are met by the three shops owned by neither Afrikaans or English speaking Chinese - ofcause they also sell radios, TVs and bicycles
- a courier service is run from the car repair shop who also meets all glass requirements and
- there is a great little deli at the liquor store

We know that there are many other services still to be discovered, but as all is not immediately obvious it is by word of mouth, and that word is definitely an Afrikaans one.
Anyway, we now live in the prettiest street in town - a long one that includes the school, the church, the dominees house, doctors surgery, the clinic and the sport field at the end. The people are pretty real. What you see is what you get. Mostly they are 5th or 6th generation, with hardly a transplanted city person in sight. We know all the English folk. And they, the towns folk, farmers, shop owners and everyone else it seems, knows us.

The people are friendly to us, allowing me to speak my very poor Afrikaans, rather than speak English. They just don't, speak English I mean. Everyone can understand it very well though.
Twee Rivieren, the home of all the English inkomers is often visited by us and our children. They all remain our closest friends. We miss them all, but with much to do, and much to keep us entertained, we are doing nicely here in Joubs!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Writing again

It has taken me 4 days to get to this point. We have not posted a blog for longer than that, I know, but we have had valid excuses. Moving, was one. No internet ,was the other. For the last 4 days the reason has been Fear of Writing.

Its a strange thing. A little like a fear of flying. Writing to me is one of my most pleasurable activities. The odd thing is, mostly, I avoid it like the plague. I have a writer friend in Cape Town that put it all brilliantly (she is a brilliant writer). Without quoting her exact words, what she wrote is along the lines that she, a lover of writing, on the whole, has to con herself to do it. She pretends to be merely scribbling some thoughts down, when actually writing her first draft. She has to unplug the phone, otherwise she will HAVE to speak to a dozen needy friends. I know exactly what she means.

I promised myself and my husband that I would write today. Since then a cup of coffee was essential, three hours with friends was necessary, homemade pizzas for lunch was a promise that had to be kept, a swept carpet could not wait, and a conversation with my husband was the desire of my heart.

I was tempted to sit down at the laptop by two sweeties left next to it by a subversive husband. I have eaten one whilst I opened the lid and got connected. The other awaits my completed blog. I have to bribe myself.

This new flat ( we call it an 'apartment') because of the divine high ceilings and the long carpeted passage, has a snug little corner for me to write in. I have a blue table, its surface covered by my assortment of moleskines, journals and large A4 books full of my scribblings. I sit on a tapestry covered chair, and have a rose bowl close at hand with a single fragrant red rose beside me. L picked it specially for me from our new garden. My children are in Jethros room at the bottom of the passage. I have become an ardent fan of passages. No more open plan for me. The row of doors is wonderful, with each one in their place and space.

And yet with all this, getting down to the business of writing is still almost an impossibility some days. I wrote a rather bad book in England years ago, and the only way I got down to it was to say goodbye to my ex husband in the morning, lock the door, draw the curtains on the bleak landscape, turn up the heating and stay in my pajamas. I never combed my hair or washed my face, forcing myself to skulk indoors in silence it anyone knocked on my door. At about 12 I would arouse myself from my musings and have a brisk shower. In order to write I had to keep myself prisoner.

I am attempting to write a book again, wading my way through my first draft, pulling ideas from somewhere inside my head. When I do it, generally, I am alone in the house, it is totally silent, and I am grumpy. I hate any disturbance whilst finally engaged with the task at hand, and I have felt my mind do its shift to the blissful creative space. Writing is elation.

Maybe it is my built in aversion to anything addictive, steering my ship to avoid anything in my life that might take me captive. Writing, I know, is that powerful. I could find myself in some rotting house by the sea, all alone, hammering away on a keyboard, and dodging people.

Not really, but it would not be that bad. Right now I live opposite the school, dividing my time between family, drama and the koshuis kitchen. Ofcause I will find the space and place to write, because, although I am generally on the run, the urge overtakes me, like now.
Time for that sweetie!

Friday, March 26, 2010


Sometimes packing makes me nauseous. I think it might be all that bending and reaching. I feel light headed and sick to my stomache. It happens every time. I think I was just created to travel light.

When one packs you always have to make decisions. What to keep, and what to discard. I get so exhausted with it all that I have an urge to throw most things away. If I even try Georgia digs them all out again. No black bag is safe from her - every tossed item is suddenly a treasure!

There is of cause the joy contained in rediscovered things. I can get caught up in reading fascinating stories on old newspapers, pausing midway as I wrap a cup, a vase. An item of clothing, dug out from a forgotten suitcase brings pleasure for a day.... A favourite book is flipped through. But really, I know , I was created to travel light.

As a young woman I went through a stage when I hitch hiked a lot. I loved it. The freedom , standing like a cactus on a desert of tar, my arm stuck out, thumb pointing heavenward. I loved the feel of my canvas rugsack between my ankles, everything that mattered to me contained therein. There is no doubt that there was a risk involved ( my sister hitch hiked only once, and was nearly killed in a head on collision). But I did it for years, addicted to that one stopped car, getting in or out, with no commitment, no debt to be payed. I was kept safe, that I acknowledge, and am grateful.

I remember holding a warm puppy on my lap once, as the old man who picked me up wound his way through the Ciskei hills. There was a crazy ride with two funny Scots ladies, through the aloes landscape around Grahamstown, and I sat on a bagpipe by mistake on the backseat. I leapt from moving cars at stop streets twice, instinct telling me that that would be best, and traveled from the sleepy town of Port Alfred in an aeroplane car at 210km an hour to PE. One day I just stopped, got out a car and knew it was my last ride. I started to pick up baggage after that.

But not much. Even when we returned from England we arrived  back to SA with two backpacks and one baby on the hip and another in my belly.  Now, in my forties I carry a lot with me. L and I have shed much over the years. But we, tortoise like, have to carry a home with us. And all this stuff is home - all this baggage.

In psychological terms I suppose the word baggage has a negative connotation. But lately I would disagree with that. It makes us who we are. A friend once told me that I rearrange my  same old things in a different way in every home she has known me in - and there have been many. It sets me to thinking. All this stuff we carry, good and bad, beautiful and not so, is who we are, metamorphosizing through the years.

I am still dodging the packing. I have had many kind offers of help. We, as a family are picking our way through our stuff, slowly. Mostly I am day dreaming about our destination - the place we will be when all this is done. How I will place a chair, a quilt, a row of carved wooden animals.

I am wishing I could be picked up suddenly, like a car swishing passed and pulling over onto the gravel, some stones crunching under my shoes as I run towards a door being opened, a friendly face behind the wheel, and there I go, moving  effortlessly on.

In Matthew  6:19, it says: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal." So maybe I'm on the right track...

Friday, March 19, 2010

A moving experience

We are moving. Moving is something we do. Often. The mere thought of the labour involved makes me feel nauseous and dizzy, but I know that it too will pass, and we have already packed ten boxes. Those who know us well will not be surprised. The great thing is, we are only moving five kilometers, up the road to Joubertina.

I have moved so often that it does not take long for a house to become a home to us. We have stayed in such an assortment of dwellings, and I loved them all, in different ways. The incredible thing is, they were all beautiful, and we were blessed to have lived in them, for different reasons.

My parents lived in the same house for thirty years, and I lived with them for my whole life, until I moved out. But, in my adult life I have moved about 50 times! Sometimes across continents, sometimes cities, towns, around the corner, next door. I don't know why it has been like that - it just has.
So, we are doing it again...

Looking back I am so grateful for all the homes. There were the seaside homes, with the waves lapping at the bottom of our road, a mere 2 minutes walk away. There was the country home, with a wide verandah with a mountain view spread out before us. A favourite was the lagoon house, with a panhandle down to the lagoons edge, visited by pink flamingoes, and me, quite alone, swimming out silently amongst the ducks.

Long ago there were the England houses, double glazed, cosy with coal fires, snow on the road outside the cold stone walls. There was the semi in Observatory which God chose for me to be in when my first husband left, an unlikely haven, but a shelter it was, at the time. I remember a suburban house with fondness, my children little, L and I and them becoming a family there.

A swimming pool, or some watering hole, featured in most of the recent homes, because I love water. There has been no water here in the Langkloof. A drought stricken place lately. Nevertheless, there has been living water here, in a very real way for us. And, of cause there is always the Kouga, and the rock pools, and the big blue dam up in the Hoek.

But now we are moving to town. This time there is definitely only one reason why. It is because we really believe that God wants us to go. There is work waiting there that needs to be done. Children that need to know that He loves them. And more than that - we want to go.

So, goodbye, goodbye dear outside room, beneath the beloved Syringa Tree. Goodbye the open view out from our bedroom window, down the orchard valley of Twee Riviere, and up the steep mountains of the Tsitsikamma. Goodbye Louis sheep strolling through our land, morning and evening, the shepherd cries, the little bleating lambs. Good bye the vegetable garden, so overgrown now - thank you for an abundant crop - we ate well. Goodbye the dirt road, the drunken wanderings and voices passing by. We said we would live in this house for a year , and wait, and see what God wanted us to do, here in the Langkloof. It will be exactly a year.I will miss all we leave behind, like always.

But this life, it seems,is not just to be lived out here, on this platform of grass, with the large trees behind us, the open valley stretched out before us. We, L and I, have accumulated many different skills in our great and motley careers. If God can use them, then we are so excited.

So we go to a ground floor flat in the school hostel. At this point it is not all clear. Does God ever reveal all His plans at once? Of cause not. We are sad, but happy too. The friends will remain. We are not going far.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Testing testing

It's raining in the Langkloof. The farmers say it came just in time. It has been a long soaking rain. I saw a teacher or two standing out in the school quad, faces and hands turned up, standing still, receiving blessings. I myself absorbed it, that first day, the hem of my jeans soaking it up like blotting paper.

I looked out over the orchards of Twee Riviere and watched the trees, leaves upturned, apples glossy as the water washed over them. The spinach in my garden grew overnight. I had stopped watering my garden in the drought, conserving water. Its incredible, I thought, looking over their green leaves, what water can do.
I still need my garden, we need the food it supplies to us. The rain felt like mercy. Mercy raining down.

Today it rains again - and tests are being written. L and I have been composing tests for weeks, preparing children to write tests, and now finally marking tests. I have been wondering about the whole business, while I march my drama classes up and down to the hall, to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Their little dramas are to be tested too.

My children haven't written many tests in their lives. Homeschoolers don't do much testing. Who needs the pressure? And anyway, I've often thought that it isn't really the best way to learn. There is a secret hidden in it all, I thought, and the rain brought me some kind of answer.

To me this whole life we live seems to be some kind of training ground. We have certainly been tested aplenty. Just this morning I read in the Word
  • ' Now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuiness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.'

Tests are necessary for some reason. Thats all I know. My children are bowed down by them, giving up play time to learn, sweating through the writing of them, anxious about their results. Proud when they do well, upset when they do not.

I received a distressed sms from a dear friend. They are being brought to breaking point - but they are not yet broken. They ask for prayer. Help during the testing, help to endure the testing....

I see them, and myself also, like a whole lot of apples. hanging onto those tree branches in the orchards. Hanging on for the rain, stretched to the limit of our endurance sometimes, using up all our resources.

Being tested. Its no good being tired of them, these tests. No good not wanting to participate. There is no choice, they just keep on coming, and we cling on, waiting for the rain. And then it comes, and it is all over, cooling, refreshing, saving.

Until the next time...
At the time of writing my father and my sister's only child are both very sick. We heard that a dear nanny is now very ill with THAT virus...
More dreaded tests come upon us.
I ask those of you who practise the presence of God, and who will pray for us to please do so.
Mercy, mercy, all around.

Friday, February 26, 2010


Going to school has brought with it many challenges. We have been a home school family, a nomadic, drifting, impermanent family on and off for many years. A family whose dreams included a life lived in tents, under trees, beneath a canopy of blue sky. A life without an iron.

Its not that I cannot iron. Even Lex can (who ever went to Army and never learnt that skill?) Its just that ironing, amongst other things has not been a priority. Mostly.

I guess its part of a much bigger picture - being netjies - generally.

I grew up with a working mother, who cannot cook, and did not do anything of a domestic nature - at all, ever. We had a maid, full time, always, living in the back yard, hardly never there. Looking after myself, when I left home was an adjustment, for years.

I have wrestled with this cleaning thing. For years, during my political struggle, I did not employ anyone ever, to clean up after me. Neither did my friends. I lived with some of the richest, most privileged offspring, and the messiest!

Overseas I was a wife, mother, and servantless for years. I mastered all the domestic arts. I cleaned other peoples houses! I cleaned up in an Irish pub, cleaning upstairs bedrooms after people who had rough nights of.......
It cured me of any sensibilities about cleaning. I came to a revelation - the only way it makes any sense at all is to be paid to do it.

Back home we have had times of abundance when we have employed people , and although good they are always times fraught with care. I am a terrible employer. I cannot help but be a friend. By Gods grace I have been spared users and abusers, because a used and abused employer I would be - I have seen it happen to many of my best friends!

Its distressing though, the lives of the poor and needy , the refugees, the single mothers. Many hours have been spent in my home, over cups of coffee, listening to tales of woe and abandonment. My husband is no better. In better times he was often to be seen delivering furniture and assorted goods to employees in need - once using his boss's Merc sports to ferry our maids daughter to her matric farewell... Life is complicated when one is an employer.

So, mostly as home-schoolers we resorted to the chore system, working our children to get things done! Those days are over. There is a saying - if you want something done, ask a busy person. Its true it seems, as these days we accomplish early risings, cooked breakfasts, all of us rushing out to school, sometimes doing 4 trips back and forth in the afternoon before we are all settled at home once more. Then there is the washing, the ironing, the food to be cooked.

And netjies we are, mostly. But my house is not pristine. In fact, some days it is an absolute mess. I have been known to lie on my bed and stare out my window at the rural scene, when there is work to be done. There are hours I spend under the Syringa tree scribbling when the laundry basket is overflowing onto the grubby bathroom floor. I can be found (like now) punching away on my laptop when I know the floor needs to be swept and there are dishes to be washed.

The point is, I need dream time. House work, they say is a thankless task. I have to agree. There are those who love it, thrive on it. My friends tell me about 'Fly Lady'. I know they want to help, but the only 'Fly Lady' I'll ever be is the one in the kitchen on a very hot day, looking up with an air of hopelessness at the disgusting fly strips, hanging like filthy streamers from the ceiling, knowing that they need to be changed, yet again.

So, the dilemma continues, having never mastered the art of making the domestic worker invisible ( lets live our life as if she does not exist) I constantly turn to them when they are in my home and make asides, about the drama of our life being played out before them. My sister cleans her house the day before her char is due to come. Ho hum, whats the sense of that? But, I totally understand.

So, please forgive the hairballs that always seem to gather beneath my couch (damn dogs! ), the laundry basket that is never empty, the dishes that are hardly ever all packed away. I don't think I'll ever get it right, but in the mean time thanks for all those marvellous books I get to read, flights of fantasy DVDs I get to watch, dreamy dreams I get to dream, and the endless scribblings I get to scribble.
The ironing can wait...