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Monday, 28 September 2009

Search and Rescue

My very talented mum always had one cupboard in her kitchen that all children were allowed to open, the “Tupperware” cupboard, and it was always in a mess. I remenber my many cousins, my little baby brother, my nephew and even my Little Butterfly having a rumble in that cupboard. They would leave “Tupperware” scattered on the kitchen floor for all and sundry to kick or trip over till it was thrown back in higgledy piggledy, ready for the next tiny fingered invasion. I recall my mum struggling to find the matching lids for certain sets and then giving up the search and just using any lid that fit. To this day it is seldom that you find a bowl with its matching lid in use in her fridge. Something unique to my very talented mum!

Having witnessed the fun that was had in that cupboard I have adopted the same policy in my teeny tiny little kitchen in our humble abode at the end of the world. Little Butterfly is allowed to play with anything in that cupboard. I try desperately to keep it reasonably tidy but seem never to be able to keep up with little fingers. I, unlike my very talented mum, cannot abide using things that are mismatched and have on numerous occasions repacked my “Tupperware” cupboard enable me to find one matching lid.

Then I began to notice that things were going missing completely and I now had lids without bottoms and bottoms without lids. It was all very infuriating as I ensured that only full sets were packed when we embarked on our journey to our new life at the end of the world. So, having been woken by my muse in the small dark hours of the morning, when I was able to not only finally finish a poem that has laid unfinished for weeks, but also speak to my mum at home and my delightful sister-in-law in Los Angeles on that marvellous invention called Skype, I was left with more time on my hands than usual. Having finished all housewife like chores I embarked on a mission to seek out the hiding places of the missing lids and bottoms, and confront the culprit responsible for this mystery. I enlisted the help of a somewhat disinterested Butterfly and commenced with the search beginning, it seemed sensible, with tiding the cupboard. Having informed myself of the amount, colour and shape of lids and bottoms that had gone “AWOL” I then crawled about on all fours searching underneath all stationery furniture and appliances.

I was to be instantaneously successful and triumphantly recovered a lid from under the fridge and one of the Mauritian’s $1600 speakers. All this while been attacked by an overzealous Butterfly who was tremendously amused by her mother’s shenanigans. I went on to discover plates under Little Butterfly’s cot, cups in her toy box and jelly moulds in a pair of the Mauritian’s running shoes. I rescued two milk jugs, a bowl, its matching lid and one of Butterfly’s “sippy” cups from bath time toy duty and resurrected a set of measuring cups that had been buried in one of our flower beds with the aid of a set of measuring spoons used to dig their grave. Singing my victory song I headed back to base camp marching to the beat of the drums in my head and the giggles of my two year old where I lovingly washed my errant plastic ware and returned them to their rightful place in my “Tupperware” cupboard.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays

I woke up this morning to the sounds of rain, not an unusual occurrence here at the end of the world, but there seemed to be something different today. Unlike most rainy mornings this morning was not cold, windy and dull when all you want to do is stay under the covers reading a decent piece of literature denying the existence of the dreary outside world. There have been many winter days when I have not opened the curtains in an attempt to keep the dreariness on the outside. Today had a different feel to it, perhaps it was the fact that it was light outside and the air wasn't icy, but today was reminiscent of a rainy spring morning back home.

The Mauritian often tells me to stop referring to South Africa as home because I am only prolonging the feelings of home sickness that afflict me daily. I suppose in a way he is right, we chose to uproot ourselves and resettle at the end of the world. We were looking for a different way of life, a new way of doing things and, in some way, a new home. But how can I be expected to not call the only home I ever knew anything but home? I am a South African born and bred and proud of it! There is no better weather then Durban weather, even those debilitating midsummer days are missed during the arctic cold winters at the end of the world. There have been days here when it has rained so hard that I have understood where the term “sheets of rain” originated, but nothing is as breath taking as an African thunderstorm. That feeling on your skin as the breeze cools down, the burning sun is covered in sinister looking rain clouds and the sudden silence of the birds as the earth holds her breath. Then the clouds are split by lightening and the earth breaths again as the thunder rumbles through the air bringing the rain. I have spent many hours of my life watching these storms, marvelling in their beauty and tried unsuccessfully to capture them in a poem. Then as suddenly as it started it is over, the sun is restored to its former brightness and everyone goes back to the chores of day to day life. But there is a different smell in the air, everything has been washed clean and refreshed. After an African storm there is a feeling of renewal. It is invigorating!

Here at the end of the world when the day dawns grey and wet the day sets dreary and cold, everything smells mouldy, damp and old and no one has any desire to move. We have spent many winter nights wrapped in layers of clothing huddled under a mountain of blankets wondering what it is we are doing here and why we are putting ourselves through this. Then one morning dawns bright and warm with soft rain falling on our colourful spring garden, the curtains are flung open and there just beyond the shimmering white on Mt. Taranaki is a tiny blue patch of sky promising sun. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes I go from room to room opening windows, allowing the cool morning air into our home and the stale is chased air out. With a cup of coffee in hand I stand on our veranda and watch the sky change from dull grey to azure blue, watch the colours in the garden brighten as the flowers lift their heads towards the sun. There is a chorus of bird song greeting the day, the squawk of an Indian Mynar nesting in our garage roof and the buzz and flutter of bumble bees and butterflies. Then I noticed a smell, new and fresh, the smell of spring!

South Africa will always be my home. It is in my blood, a part of me of who I am. I will always miss her beauty and her ugliness. South Africa is the centre of my family and friends that have spread out across the world. It is the place we all eventually go back to, if only for a short period of time. It is where my memories begin. I will always call South Africa home because that is what it is. But this morning as I watched my little piece of earth come alive I realised that here was home too. There is a different type of beauty here unique to anywhere else and all I have to do is free up a space in my mind so my eyes can see what is there behind the curtains.

For the rest of my life I will miss my home, but for the rest of my life I will discover the new and unusual things unique to our little piece of the earth here at the end of the world.

Monday, 21 September 2009

My Friend the Word Fiend

I have a very dear friend who has a rather refreshing attitude towards life. If she were dead she would be, right now, turning in her grave at been called “dear.” She is cringing as she reads this wondering how sentimental I’m going to get and is hoping, I am sure, that I do not mention her name. So to avoid embarrassment to her I shall call her, Celeste!

Now as I have said, Celeste has a rather refreshing attitude to life. She is exceptionally intelligent and had she the patience would likely spend her time studying and teaching the beauty and nuances of the English language. However, for Celeste, this use of her time and intelligence is far too grown up and rather stuffy. Yet it is something she could do without much effort at all. I am not afraid of English and I rather enjoy using complicated and little used words, I find them to be very descriptive and often much more enjoyable to use then the common everyday words that everyone relies on. Celeste, however, opened a whole new world to me with her almost insurmountable understanding and use of English. Often times I have received text messages with the oddest words I have ever seen, most of which are unpronounceable to me and most times appear to be unusable in day to day living. Celeste however seems able to use any word she finds as she peruses her dictionary.

She is unafraid of her intelligence and thinks nothing of regaling people with stories of her encounters with those blessed with a less than average intelligence in one moment then popping a condom over her head and blowing it up through her nose. I have attended staff meetings where she has imparted her wisdom and intelligence to all around her showing them how to do things easier and quicker, then pull me into the middle of the staff room to head bang wickedly to Just Jinger or Nirvana. I have had deep soul searching conversations with her one moment then laughed hysterically with her as we whispered “Rhubarb, rhubarb” to each other while in others company. I know she is capable of being extremely rational when explaining to her three delightful sons what is the right way to behave, and equally capable of jumping about her kitchen at two in the morning in a slinky black dress on a pogo stick. She is ready and willing to share her knowledge with those who are willing to learn, but equally ready to cower you into submission with a well aimed volley of words, the meanings of which you have no clue except perhaps in the scathing g tone of her voice. I have sat reading the dictionary with her found the most useless words imaginable and used them confusing all around us.

Celeste has introduced me to some of the best pieces of English literature, has inspired me to expand my reading to include the likes of Moby Dick or Les Miserable’s even if it was just to say I have read some books that she hasn’t. She has taught me not to be afraid of my intelligence and to never lower my standards to appease those less intelligent then myself. She has showed me the value of surrounding myself with those more intelligent than me and happily allowed me to share her knowledge. Learning from Celeste has given me the confidence to be cliché and “stand up and be counted.” She encouraged me to write poetry by sharing hers, encouraged me to improve my knowledge by sharing hers, and encouraged me to learn by sharing what I know with others. I know I will never be anywhere near as intelligent as Celeste, but she has always made me feel every bit her equal. I have never felt inferior in her intellect but empowered nor have I been made to walk in her shadow but rather in my own spotlight.

I am grateful to her for her unconditional friendship. I thank God for her intellect. I enjoy sharing the stories that are made from the moments and memories we have shared. I am sorry that we live on opposite sides of the world and cannot spend more than a cyber moment in each other’s company each day. I miss the many glasses of wine we have yet to drink, but not the boxes of kinickinicks we have yet to smoke. I look forward to the hours of yet unspoken flapdoodle, dictionary reading and word swapping.

Lastly, I must here give way to the sentimental and say about Celeste, that, and I do not use this term lightly, I love her dearly. One day we shall find our names in the headlines even if it’s just for singing Fernando at Karaoke.