I needed some pavement under my feet today, so after a run (had to skip over black ice and lower our voices as we gossiped past the cottages)…I went to London. I sat on the train, which I love, worked hard for an hour on my writing and didn’t feel like getting out of the cocoon once we got to the station. The train really is a wonderful bubble in which time is still – it is peaceful, clean and calm. An unexpected soul salve. Anyway, out i got, into black cab, a quick lunch with some girlfriends – i’m not good at lunches, i get fidgety, talk too much, and need to get going…I went to have my haircut. i have been left with silky blow dried curls which even if i say so myself look not too bad. Sadly , these curls had nowhere to go other than back to the countryside – they didn’t even have a husband to come home to. And, being curls in my hair, they most certainly will not last ’til friday. I have refused to run again tomorrow morning so that at least i can enjoy them for a full day, but by the time i have watched hockey and rugby tomorrow, in the wind and the rain (forecast and inevitable), strangers will be offering to drive me straight back to the hairdresser. Anyway, when i had my hair done, i also had my nails done. a Mistake, i always forget that the lovely hungarian lady at the salon shreds the tops of my fingers so that it is actually difficult to type. my fingers resemble my teenage son’s who methodically works on the tops of his fingers with his teeth – with braces on! until they are raw. i paid for this privilege. While i was having my nails ‘done’, or ‘undone’, and she was tearing into perfectly good flesh down the side ..’hangnails’ i think some people call them, i remembered their other name – ‘step-mother’s blessings’! i felt outraged on behalf of my own stepmother, who is a real blessing (and whom i sense needs a hug right now.). So, in her honour, I have decided to hijack the expression and rename my curls after her. My stepmother’s blessings are going to bounce all day tomorrow and make me feel happy. whenever i have lovely curls, i will call them Stepmother’s Blessings. this blog is not going to make much sense to anyone other than her, and even she may struggle, but i think she’ll get the picture. give dad a hug too.
I spent the day digging. Digging in the rain. Digging in the rain in my garden in England. At one point I did wonder, if I kept digging, would I really land in Australia? We grew up laughing that if you kept digging you’d end up ‘down under ‘ etc, but when I got to England (20 years ago)…I realised that that is an English joke. It’s really only ‘Down Under’ from here. SA itself is probably ‘Down Under’ from the Mid-West, or China. I looked it up. “Down Under ” in Chinese: “nan bian chang zhi mian ban qiu de ao zhou”. It doesn’t really have a comic ring does it? I imagine we’re called nan fei, SA, or just ‘Sou Arica’. Anyway, I was wondering about all of this while I was digging and then I remembered that I had brought some seeds back from my holiday in the Cape, and that they were still tucked away in a little washbag upstairs. Before the biodiversity police step in, I’m a paid up member for the protection of South African biodiversity and I even signed the online petition against Australia trying to steal the generic name ‘Acacia‘ from us, so please allow me a few SA specimens in my garden to remind me of home. Double whammy though, my seeds were Leonotus Leonorus. Try that on customs. Better known as Wild Dagga.. I am suddenly wondering if this is the kind of thing that gets you into trouble as a blogger?! Is someone going to out me as a biodiversity terrorist crossbred with drug smuggler? Ouch. They would probably put me somewhere that doesn’t have a garden at all for that. I hereby promise to keep Leonora ( or whatever her name is, see? I’m such an amateur!) in her washbag. That should do it.
Anyway, the real message of today’s blog was supposed to be that when digging in the mud, and the rain, with a friend, I thought a lot about one of the greatest joys of living here, which is all the more glorious after the filthy winter we are having. The signs of spring. When those first green bulb tips start nosing through the brown, and the snowdrops are dangling little heads in great swathes of hopefulness, and buttony buds are on the ends of the trees, I realise that there are some things about England that I really love. Spring here is long, and it is a rush … a long rush to growth. The plants have so far to go from where they’ve come, to where they’ve got to get to by the time the sun is out. It is like a headlong race for survival , and it is spectacular. You have to look hard in January for reminders of these good things, but if you look hard enough, the first signs are already there.
For Christmas my father and step-mother gave me a rather unusual present. I’d go so far as to say it was one of the most unusual presents I have ever got. I am a very hard person to buy for ( so they say), and venturing anywhere near the territory of ‘things for the home’ is dangerous stuff…unless you don’t mind your present being recycled via my present drawer, going to oxfam, or the annual school fair where children buy alarming gifts for their parents, drawn from a pile that other parents have sent in… you get the picture. So this was a brave present. It is large, it is noisy, and it hangs on the wall! It is a giant clock, in walnut, that hour after hour, ‘chimes’ (this might qualify as a euphemism) with the sound of a different South African bird! On the face of the clock, next to each hour, there is picture of the South African bird that is going to squawk in the study, on that given hour. There’s a Fish Eagle, Guinea Fowl, and a Burchell’s Coucal. What can I say? I love it.
On the basis that the best presents reflect how well you really know the person for whom they are intended, this, along with ‘most unusual’, qualifies as amongst the best I have ever got. Firstly it surmounts all sorts of challenges – for example, it does not, most emphatically not, go with my ‘style’ (if you can call it that) of decorating. And I am picky about such things… Most people would not dream of buying me a big clock for the wall. My gardener bought me an outside clock once. There’s no hiding from the gardener that you haven’t hung the outside wall clock … Someone else who worked for me ( no longer – there may be a lesson in this) bought me a clock for my bedroom with pink creatures made of shells, covered in varnish, with small shell red eyes. No. Generally speaking, it is best to avoid wall clocks. But my dad knows me better than to be put off by such superficial things. He knows my heels are dangling longingly in the sea, that I’m permanently sick for home, that every time the black collared barbet calls i am going to be transported to my granny’s garden, to paw-paw on the bird-tray and wings in the sun…
There is, however, a small technical hitch. It’s called Longitude. South Africa is two hours ahead of us here in London. So, as I look at the Hornbill at 2, I hear the night jar, when I hear the coucal’s hollowed wood call, I look up to see the kingfisher. Ah well… It makes me laugh, every hour, on the hour. And my favourite? – You know of course. It’s at 7 o’clock, when, I get two of my favourites all in one – I see the bokmakirie, I hear the piet-my-vrou.
1. Have a cup of tea. Have a biscuit, and another cup of tea. You’ll need the fuel.
2. Open a fresh new, (anonymous) email account specially for your blog and make sure you know your passwords to all necessary accounts/sites (write them down) eg: it’s Biltong with a big B, and sosatie only has one ‘s’ in the middle.
3. Make sure you know how to use your scanner/photo/basic photoshop functions, and where all the computer cables are for cameras etc (this took me days).
4. Rent 197 suitable movies for your children because you don’t want them surfing the porn channel at 1am when you have forgotten they exist, because you are still attached to your computer, where you’ve been since breakfast.
5. Don’t bother with the weather report. You won’t be going outside.
and 6, for the South Africans: Brush up on your Afrikaans. Some of the most hilarious bloggers are Afrikaners.
and 7, for the Brits, Soutie doesn’t like to exclude you: Change your heating timer to include the wee hours.
My blogs to date are too long. Is this better?
or did you miss me?
I have had fun trying to figure out this blog thing, and the adventure has been mainly:
A time-bandit – I have wasted hours wandering around the web: amazed, inspired, appalled, and laughing, in no particular order. It is incredible how many people of very little talent are busy bashing away at their typewriters, their digital cameras and ‘send’ buttons, to no audience, with no obvious purpose other than to express themselves. Each in itself is rather depressing but as a whole it is a rather liberating phenomenon. I suspect it reflects a horrible breakdown in communities that people need to do this. Looked at positively, I suppose one could argue that it is just the opposite –the creation of new geographically boundaryless communities… I don’t know.
It is also an astonishing collection of unsung talent. There are so many millions of wonderful interesting people out there. God knows I don’t want to talk to them all, but it is a humbling little journey.
So hours and hours have floated by in a haze of South African (I have come to think of it as boerewors blogging), cricketing, cooking (SA plus cooking is “cooksister” – which is a traditional South African sweet -cute!), design, photography, bitchy diary, travel (yawn), funny, mummy, literary…blogs. Enough already!
Secondly – it is a TECHNICAL TANGLE. Be warned. The beginning bit is really easy, but in the end as homework I posted a blog that was a simple name on a standard (blogstandard ha ha) template design because I was, simply , exhausted by the detail. Before you start your course there are some basic things you need to do so that you are not trying to do them alongside the course.
All I can say for now is that Thank God you can’t fail this course, or I would.
Just imagine me trying to design my blog name, run around trying to take photographs for my blog page, download photos onto the same computer than I am trying to use to scroll through the lecture…the lecture is full of links so I can’t just print it off, and it is so detailed that I have to follow it as I am trying to implement it, so I am trying to work between about 7 screens at the same time… and the computer and the camera charger are sharing an adaptor, and then I realise I need a new private, anonymous email address for the blog page, and I can’t remember the password of my old email account and can’t access the server to the email without the password because they recognise my computer by which time the kettle that I boiled earlier (because obviously by now I need tea) is frozen because I left the window open to photograph the snow ( from inside so that I wouldn’t have to change my shoes) for my blog. My blog host then sends me an email to confirm that I am signed up but, again, I can’t access my email because I have used an old obscure email address ( because I failed to get a brand new one) and can’t remember that password either ( not sure at this point that I can remember anything at all – is it ‘Boerewors’? ‘Rooibos’? ‘Voetsak’? ‘Baboon’? Does baboon have two b’s or one?, “babboon” doesn’t look right but I think it still might be my password. Oh well I have to tell them I have forgotten my password which requires them to send me another email at yet another email address which then sends me a link to a new password by which time I have got 573 screens open and have completely lost track of which email this is for or indeed why I am sitting at my computer at 3am!!! The tea is really cold by now , my feet are freezing and my hand is a cold claw because the heating went off hours ago and then I think of me trying to persuade my Dad to do this while recovering from an operation ( he refused) and think that, after all, there might be a God. !!!
Which brings me full circle back to TIME BANDIT!
Soutie had a good outing today. She has been longing for the sun on her arms and an easy life this week, and a trip North on a grimy train, a netball match watched through fencing as dense as chainmail, and tea on the side of the highway to mark time had done nothing to lift her soul.
But then…oh boy…Turner and the Grand masters at Tate Britain. A timely reminder that there is indeed a hot red heart beating away in the grey old lady that is England… we were taken around by a Tate guide ( a lucky break/ corporate perk) and treated to a mesmerising hour of intellectual generosity. Our guide shared not only his thoughts but himself and his feeling for the subject in a way we could relate to ie: he used words like ‘delicious Southern Italian colour’ – I thought of ice-cream, even though it’s vrieeslik cold here at the moment. We came away able to pick him out in a line-up ( Turner’s paintings that is, not the guide, though cardiganned and cord-clad he was easy to spot as an ‘artellectual’). We saw clearly not only how Turner drew on the Grand Masters – and how much he informed the future, but could also decide for ourselves whether or not we think he was Great. We do. We were able to scale, as if standing alongside him on the prow of one of his 17th Century Dutch ships, or the top of his classical buildings in Carthage, the height and breadth of Turner’s ambition. We sensed his ego, his masterful acknowledgment of the Legends (Poussin, Rembrandt, Titian…) coupled with his embedded sense of “I can do it better’. Every painting he did that was ‘after’ a particular painting by a Master, Turner painted just that little big bigger, as if the original size couldn’t possibly accommodate his genius. The show was extraordinary, like seeing the planets lined up once in your life, the guide a blessing, the whole outing such a tonic it should probably be illegal – we felt so good afterwards. I am grateful to live here, and to be able to go to such things on a snow-fluttery Wednesday morning on the train.
The exhibition opens with the following two paintings – The paintings are all hung in pairs – A Grand Master and then a similar Turner – it is a giant, wonderful game of ‘spot the difference’, and ‘spot the similarity’.
(struggling to paste pics…?! help)
Check out the exhibition, though it is about to finish. (31st January) Here is a link to Maev Kennedy at The Guardian’s storytelling review