Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Group Sex Behind the Wild Irises

Not actually.

Just resorting to cheap tactics to get you back to my blog. I mean it's been the longest time, while I was in my confinement with novelitus. I'm in remission right now. But I hear that the condition has a slow recovery rate and that there are frequent relapses.

At the moment, while I leave my twisted plot to untangle itself, I'm favouring really short swift stories. Like this one:

"I will love you forever," he said to her.
"Don't love me forever. Just love me now." She smiled into his brown eyes. They flicked away.
"Ok. In a minute. I've just got the kettle on."

So, I'm on holiday now. Its been quite a decade, has it not? It deserves a moment of pause. I'm not making New Year resolutions. The last month or two has seen me running, doing yoga, visiting the gym regularly, writing daily. Saying No where required. I wouldn't want to mess all that up with a good intention.

I'm just pottering around the garden, doing some filing, chucking out old clutter and leaving the laptop shut. Leaving the muses to frolic, behind the waterfall curtain. Behind the wild irises.

Happy new decade everyone!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Prose and Cons


Wry Moments in November

On the 16th of November, this is in my blogger drafts folder:
I interrupt my nail-biting, umming, ahing, plotting and swearing to give you a short news update on how the Nanowrimo thing is going.

I am on 16 000 words. I should be on 25 000. Last night I realised who my main character is - NOT the character I previously thought. That's ok. Apparently Moby Dick was going to be all about Bulkington, until Ahab stepped into the frame, and Melville had to wash Bulkington off the ship with an almighty wave.

Its ok, its ok, its ok.

But what of Nanowrimo? Is it working for me?
Because I am by nature a slow and ponderous writer and this is a massive kickstart.
Because I am a deadline whore and it supplies what many aspiring novelists never have - a deadline, and a sense of community
Because I am writing everyday
Because I am NOT editing and
NOT revising and
NOT being precious about what comes out.

Because I am a deadline whore, and I am trying to wean myself away from this dependence - I just want to write for the pleasure of it!
Because I thought my November would be clean like a new whiteboard. Its not. It filled up quickly, with the UN job finally coming home to roost (deadline, 20 November) and student exams and a conference that I just couldn't miss.
Because when I know that I don't have it in me for that day and I'm just writing crap for the sake of wordcount, I get irritated and stop believing in it.
Because I am ultimately a slow and ponderous writer.
Because I'm probably breaking the rules by using a set of characters that I developed years ago, and so I care too much about them to just do the fly by the seat of the pants thing that wrimo requires.

On Friday the 20th of November I was on 25k. A good friend came to stay for a week. We went to the Mountain Sanctuary Park for the weekend. Husband and I have a strict no laptops rule for weekends away, and so I wrote by hand. Lots.

On the 24th of November my Facebook status read: One thing I have learned in November: you can't write a novel and edit a non-fiction book in one month.

On Friday the 27th I had given up on the full 50k. Just be kind to yourself was the mantra for a full November.

On Saturday the 28th my Facebook status read: Tamara does have 30 000 words. The novel is half full not half empty.

On Sunday the 29th I logged on the Wrimo site, determined to do at least 1000 words, as this is my comfy rhythm for a daily output. Their front page story urged that every year, hundreds of writers flashflood in the last few days and lift their wordcounts from 30k to 50k in three days, or even from 5k to 50k.

I decided: I am a deadline whore. This is a deadline. Let me at least try, because I'm not going to get another strange self-imposed virtual deadline like this in a while, spiced up by a bit of healthy sibling rivalry. I went onto the forums and found scores of people who were trying for the same thing. They reignited my spark with their wild ambition, their gung-ho attitude and their staggering word count records (apparently there are people out there who do in fact write 50k in one day, I still don't understand how that is possible).

I wrote 10k on Sunday night, and 10k on Monday, posting the last 50k word count half an hour before the midnight cut-off point.
In that time I:
Probably contradicted my plot arc about 300 times;

Was tempted to cut and paste from previous fifteen-year old draft attempt of novel about 36 times (I didn't);

Asked myself 'what's the point you're only going to delete this later?' about 999 times;

Did away with hyphens altogether so I could have words count as two not as one;

Checked my word count every (on average) 500 words;

Deleted very little (only when I could replace something like simultaneous -with at the same time);

Ate a fair amount of chocolate;

Took reasonable breaks;

Had my characters shout at me for trying to impose expositionary nonsense on them;

Witnessed a weird little villain dressed like Michael Jackson burst into the middle of an elephant poaching scene;

Allowed him to hijack the entire rest of the story, just to find out who the hell he was. (I still don't know. Except that he has shady connections with the Chinese mafia and lives in a crumbling colonial house in the middle of nowhere and has his own aeroplane)

And at the end of it all, I got this:

and thought -
er, ok, and what was all that about?

Do I have a novel?
Emphatically not.
Might I have one if I add another 20 000 words?
More like another 50 000. Er, maybe I'd be better off cutting 20 000 and 4 subplots and keeping it as an elegant novelette.
Am I going to show you any of it?
Not yet, dear ones, not yet.
Will I do the Nanowrimo thing next year?
Hell yeah.

[pics from the old customs house on Ibo Island, Mozambique]

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

No Mo Scene Change Sweats

I LOVE writing prose fiction!

I've suddenly realised how constrained I usually am when writing plays. Because I also wear a set designer's hat and a fundraiser's hat, I'm always aware of the practical stuff like, how will they do those scene changes so quickly? Can you really have six different locations in such quick succession? I'm always writing for limited characters because otherwise the thing never gets staged, because actor's salaries are the biggest expense. And because I'm usually staging the thing myself, I've learned to be darned careful about those casual ways in which the playwright makes the producer cry with stage directions like a daisy grows up from the ground, or blood starts pouring down the window panes or the city shuffles towards her, you know, that sort of thing.

Oh, I'm rolling in it now. Bring them on, need another character? Go for it! Short choppy scenes that move from city to bush to Yeoville toilet, in and out of time frames, periods and dizzying locations. I haven't done this in ages. I wonder what was stopping me?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Full Tilt Folly

Ok, this is my public declaration. I'm throwing down the gauntlet now so that I am less likely to throw in the towel later. Got another metaphor I can mix in there? I'm going to need as many as I can get coz I am doing the NaNoWriMo thing. Oh yes I am.
A novel in 30 days? 50 000 words in 30 days. That's 2000 a day, with a couple of days to breathe in between. Or, more precisely 1666 point 666666 per day. Yikes.

Thing is, I wrote this half formed premature breach story, oh about 14 years ago, when I had to submit a novella as part of a writing course I was doing. The thing itself was shite, but the world that it spawned was compelling, and the characters that poked their heads out of the primal soup still prattle to each other on the pages of my notebooks from time to time. As I wrote two posts back, if you have the urge to write a novel, ignore it. If it doesn't let go and doesn't let go, you have to pay attention. So I'm rewriting the thing from scratch, starting Sunday. That's not cheating, apparently, because you're allowed to do some plot notes and character research, as long as all the words you post start from 1 November.

Craziness? Absolutely. What I need now is some fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants, shoot-from-the-hip rollicking keyboard smashing. Silence the left-brain editor because, as they say on the site, "editing's for December."

Talking of throwing all your cliches in one basket, does anyone else get as much joy from tangled metaphors? A dear fellow I knew once used to mix n match his in the most delightful way. "I went white. White as a sheep."
And my husband and I have collected some fantastic ones from our encounters with corporate consulting. The cliches themselves are spectacular enough, like "pluck the low-hanging fruit", but there are some truly inventive ones too.
"Don't lets saddle up someone else's monkey" has to be my all-time favourite. What are yours?

So, 50 000 words, who's going to join me? Chimera from Holey Vision did this last year and I was awed and inspired by her courage and endurance. I reckon it's worth a try. 50 000 words? I can do that. Getting them in the right order, now that may prove a little bit harder. But if I just collect them all and make sure they're in one place, well then maybe I can unscramble them later?

Come on, sign up, it'll be - um... fun?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Who's that girl?

She is going to the gym twice a week.
She is waking up at 6.
She is writing 800 words a day.
She is sorting papers into neatly labelled files.
She turned down a second glass of wine last night.

Who the hell is she?
Ask her to stay.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Stone Gods

[images from the Hubble site]

There is a book that I thought didn't exist but it does. I thought I was going to have to write it. Isn't that the reason people write books? Because no-one has written the one you want to read? But I'm happy to have discovered that it does in fact exist. Jeanette Winterson has written it. Its called The Stone Gods

This is a relief. I'm glad I don't have to write it, because I wouldn't do as good a job as she has done. Writing such a book myself would have been long, arduous and painful. Now I just get to read it and delight.

Y'see, I think its true that we only have one book in us, as they say. But there are also books on the outside of us, ones that float around looking for a home. Book ghosts seeking out potential carriers, vessels they can pour themselves into. This book, or parts of it, swooped past me a couple of times. I heard it, but only in the way you hear an aeroplane overhead and think wistfully to yourself, I really want to go to Costa Rica.

I resisted. I'm like that. My approach seems to be - if you have the urge to write something, resist it until it goes away. If it comes back and back and back, then you've got a story. Or, as Gustav Holst once said, "Never compose anything unless the not composing of it becomes a positive nuisance to you."

Obviously, in this case the ghost gave up and tried someone imminently more receptive and worthy, namely Ms Winterson. She netted it. ("The word you put down is the net for the one that got away," she writes).

Oh, obviously I'm being whimsical. Its not exactly the same book that fluttered past me, but its speculative fiction (a genre I love) and its threaded on themes I've wanted someone to write about - what would happen if we did discover a new, life-supporting planet? What would we do with it? Intergalactic travel, post climate change evacuation, corporate control, space tourism, love between a human and a beautiful robot. A repeating world.

The imprint in me is Atlantis. Technologies and civilisations so separated from emotional integrity that they follow the doomed survivor imperative: destroy ourselves as we exalt ourselves. For Winterson, it's Easter Island. People that ran out of trees whilst erecting the gods that would destroy them. Well, stories such as these litter our histories, don't they? Great Zimbabwe, I seem to remember reading, had to be abandoned because the environment could no longer support the civilisation.

So she takes this premise of a repeating world, a world where we don't learn. Where we simply cannot lift ourselves out of our cycles. Programmed to forget as fast as we learn. She takes this premise and she spins it into gold-skeined meditations on starting over.

What I am completely smitten by in this book are the melodic incantations. The swelling, cresting breaking rhythms. The way she can make tension and narrative bust out of a list - not a preposition in sight.

Its not a perfect book. But she is such a magician with language.

These are some of the repeating themes that underpin the book's philosophy:
"Is this how it ends?
It hasn't ended yet."
(the repeating world)

"And I remember it as we had seen it on that first day, green and fertile and abundant, with warm seas and crystal rivers and skies that redden under a young sun and drop deep blue, like a field at night, where someone is drilling for stars."
(the hymn to earth)

"A quantum universe - neither random nor determined. A universe of potentialities, waiting for an intervention to affect the outcome.
Love is an intervention."
(the universe of potentialities)


"Everything is imprinted for ever with what it once was."

I'm glad this book imprinted on her. Read it, and let it be imprinted on you.

Friday, October 16, 2009



It's not what you do it's
the way that you do it
Its not what you do, its
the way that you do it,
that's what gets results...

is what's been lilting through my head lately.

So many things
So many things

Yeah, I have a Life, Haha
But I also have a
Back Log

and that's bad news for me. Coz when I have a Back Log (yes, its as nasty as it sounds, with just as nasty a stink to it), is when I get realllllly slow. Like I just shut down. There's too much to do, from too long ago, and so I just pedal down, and go into rebellious mode.

Oh. I don't even know where to start.
Like, stuff from the wedding. April. No, I can't even. Photos, thankyous, unfinished business.. oooh, hang your head, lady.

Like, Marking. Student essays. Oh, tell me, what is the real difference between a 65 and a 70 and why should I strike my pen in either of these directions?

Like, Tax. I can't even. I shan't. I shush. I must.

Like, the state my office is in.
I dream of a warehouse in Doornfontein. Like a Faaarm in Aaaafrikaaaa? Like that. A loft, a studio, a spacious old warehouse downtown. A room of one's own. I have one, you know. It's just that, I'm spoilt. I want triple volume. I wish it to be a rehearsal space too. And a space to build models (as in, scale models for theatre designs) and a space to put a lot of books, and like Dave Eggars, for it to be a space where kids come and read, and in the background we (me and my whoevers) are busy making Stuff, man, like, plays and books and stuff. Y'know? Like that.

Like, I have this list of Unfinished Fiction. You wanna see it? Sies man, it hurts. I'm going to put it up here, why? Because its 2 in the morning and its brinkmanship and there is not enough at stake, so here we go -
What I am (still) busy with:

Kestral the novel

Thin Air the play

The Atlantis Papers – letters from an ageing planet

Captions for photographs that don't exist (A memoir of sorts - from 2 sisters)

Road movie ( a short movie in sms time)

Zambezi play

Susi and Chuma ( a play, part of a trilogy about David Livingstone)

Unsigned: some poems

The above are in various states of finishedness. Some nearly, some not even close.

I'm not in a squeeze about them, its more like a slow unfolding. But some of them are old, and are getting that whiff about them. They need to be aired. Perhaps one of you could help? I need
a) someone to kick my ass and hold me to a few promises,
b) someone who will give me honest to goodness true fair feedback (family members need not apply)
c) some-one who knows someone who knows someone who can get the dem things in print.
d) Or, someone who can, if its necessary, tell me gently but firmly that I must go back to the writing desk and I'm just nowhere near ready.

Well, I'm not, you know. But by December I will be.
And so will my dem tax return!!!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Kreativ silence

I haven't much felt the urge to post here lately. There's been a lot happening in my neck of the Egoli woods, and something had to give.

Then a recent post of Mud's jolted me out of my complacency and I remembered that I have some bloggiquette that I must pay attention to.

Dear Val of Monkeys on the Roof gave me this at a time when I ws too rushed to acknowledge it properly. And besides, it had rules attached and rules make me procrastinate. This has been sitting in my drafts folder for a couple of weeks. Oh, I haven't been online much. I've been teaching, or in rehearsals, or in the car... and when I do get screentime my inbox is like a clogged gutter. Ok enough with the excuses.

Thank you Val, I humbly accept and will pass it on to those bloggers I regularly read and love - sorry if they have already received it.

The award is the Kreativ Blogger award and the rules are:

1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award. (Thank you Val, I wasn't really ignoring you.)

2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.

3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.

4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.

5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers.

6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.

7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated.

Ok. 7 things about me.
1. This year, I teach design and drawing to a group of first year students at Wits University. I love them and they love me and we have a three times a week great relationship. I also supervise post-graduate research essays and that's damn hard work. I don't know if I will be doing this next year. I haven't decided yet.
2. I try to dedicate Tuesdays and Fridays to writing. That means fiction. That means in theory the day belongs solely to me. Sometimes I get it right. Sometimes I get co-opted into income-generation activities, and I find it very hard to switch in and out of fictional worlds. I need long debriefing sessions, and long psyche-up sessions. Perhaps this is why I have several unfinished fiction projects.
3. I have a fascination with Atlantis. As a real place, as a metaphor and as some kind of memory. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that places I lived as a child no longer exist - they were swallowed up by a meandering river.
4. I have an elephant spirit who visits me in my dreams. I cannot explain the exchanges we have, but they are profound.
5. One day I will build a ceramic house and glaze it on the inside. I read that you can do this - a clever man called Nader Khalili has developed a technique called super adobe. This gets my motor racing.
6. I plan my life around Mercury Retrogrades
7. I am not as credulous and new-agey as I may sound. I believe that certain things like the influence of Mercury, angels, higher selves and whirling chakras have a plausible explanation, and just because we haven't been able to 'prove' it yet doesn't mean its not real. (but don't get me started, coz with the exception of Reya, you will all think I'm nutsos)

7 Kreativ bloggers:
Miranda my sister of the Times of Miranda who is a very kreativ lass
Chimera of Holey Vision who can make you roar with laughter while breaking your heart
Shiny of Almost Thirty Three to whom we must be very grateful because she writes the important letters that we never get around to writing
Tessa of the Aerial Armadillo (of course she already has it, because she is a supremely kreatiff and luminous soul, but hey, now she has it again)
Fush of Fush and Chips (I don't think he's the award type, but I don't mind if he takes it and runs or ignores it. His words and his mix tapes are proof that four years at a certain university did not blast all the kreatiffity out of him)
Reya of After the Gold Puppy, who is part of the mystery.
Siren Voices - fantastically written stories about scenes you don't want to witness first hand.

I also had another one from Val some time back - this little mermaid.
And, wasn't there also one from Miranda some months back? See? I'm a shocker. No manners. I do however greatly appreciate the recognition, so thanks Val, Miranda.

And I will break the silence soon.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Folding time

I lead a busy life in Jozitown. I'm not complaining, because I mostly get to do things I love, exciting things. But when I count hours spent in traffic, or driving to and from places, or grocery shopping or fiddling on facebook, I know that there are far better ways to spend time. To fool time, and creep into its folds.

And here are some of them:

Staring at turquoise. A completely restorative vibration, Prozac for the eyes. This is source turquoise, like it's actually made here, pouring out from under the sand.

Watching shadows creep. Ideally one should do this for about two hours a day, for maximum benefit.

Honouring the coming and going of the sun. When I think of how many sunsets, sunrises and moonrises I don't pay attention to...

Making nature sculptures. One of my favourite artists ever is Andy Goldsworthy, who collaborates with nature to make astounding installations that he then photographs - like sorting autumn leaves into colour categories and then arranging them in concentric bands around a tree. Or building ice columns all night, by dripping accumulative drops of water, drop by freezing drop and then photographing at dawn as his labour of love melts under the first rays of sun. I love his cairns, his sudden suprises on a cliff face. I could spend all day sorting pebbles and making Goldsworthy tribute installations.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Whew. Its gone. That shroud of a cloud that has been wrapping up my head and creeping into my bones and muscles and blood through nostrils ears pores. shudder. begone, mischievous wraith, begone.

Have checked all vital signs and I think I may still be human. though definitely, the aliens have been roosting in my body cavities for a couple of weeks now.

Other things that have been occupying my head (that echoing cavity) since the aliens left:

1. Will I like District 9? I mean aside from the fact that it represents a seriously exciting departure (arrival, rather) for South African film making. Aside from the numbers (profits, etc) and the thrill and the relief that we don't have to listen to bad attempts at soffeffrican eccents and so forth. and the fact that we get to watch bits of joburg blow up. does it manage to make comment about our treatment of 'the other' without actually otherising its own in the process? watch this space. (oh man. of course i'll like it. its going to be Fab).

2. Will audiences like Paydirt? we perform this fledging little play in two weeks time in its parent city, Jozi. eeeeemp.

3. How on earth will I get through all this marking before I go on honeymoon?

4. I'm going on honeymoon!!! five months after the fact. which is just bloody perfect.

5. the aliens are here. every where I look people are coughing wheezing dragging themselves around. the whole country is ill. they're everywhere i tell you. we just didn't expect them to be so small.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hypochondriacs Anonymous

Secretly, I hoped it was swine flu. I did. Something big and real and scary sounding, so it would be ok that I am languishing in bed. So that it had a name, and I had a real excuse for feeling so lousy.

Oh dear. Some things are hard to grow out of.
See, we kids, we stayed in a place where there was no doctor. Mom even had a big book called Where There is No Doctor. Now that I have Google I am even more of a compulsive self-diagnoser than when I was ten. When I really wanted an illness with a scary name so that I could be the one that everyone felt sorry for.

But see there really were big scary diseases around us and so it was not cool to cry wolf. Not cool at all. 'Sides, Bonkar was from the 'if there's no blood don't cry' school of hard knocks (and we're talking buffalo-sized hard knocks here.) Being strong and stiff upper lip made you more likely to get points, especially if you really were sick with something horrible. So first prize was to be really sick with something horrible, but not complain at all, and then get the gratifying diagnosis -'she's so brave'.

Worst thing was to earn the title of 'hypochondriac'. My friend Patrick periodically had every kind of feel-sorry-for-me attention-getting injury you can imagine - he would look in a cobra's eyes to make sure it spit in his. Hypochondriac? Drama queen? Oh, you couldn't compete with Patrick. But it was a competition.

And what were our childish aches and pains compared to the stories all around us - the man who was found by the side of the road holding his intestines in his arms after a buffalo encounter? The man who lost his arm to a leopard? Even a very ow scorpion sting has to be endured with a bit of grit, you know?

Sister and I, when we came to the big smoke for the first time, we shopped with mom at a huuuuge wonderworld called the Hyperama. It was a supermarket. I had never seen one on that scale before. Somehow, this became the tag name for if one of us was feeling sorry for themselves with an illness of some kind. "Hiiii -purrrr -rama!" we would chant at each other when anyone complained about an ache or pain.

I'm glad that complaining wasn't tolerated in my culture. I understand where it all comes from - the British Army stoic grandad, the need to be tough. My poor mother, with hepatitus, malaria and all kinds of other lurking lurgies around us - it was best not to alarm her. Or false alarm her, should I say. (though I did take great delight in creating false gory injuries on my body when I got my first Kryolan make-up set).

But truly, what a mess it created in my childish mind. I am still so bad at taking time out when I need to rest - I overdo it time and time and time again, pushing on through with the mind over matter until my body won't let me anymore, and then its silly, coz the downtime is so much longer. Matter can really give Mind a revenge-klap when it gets its chance.

Still paranoid about not being a wuss. If I complain about not feeling well theres a big tribal voice in my ear that says, 'Come on now, Stop dying and Get back on your horse.'

Of course now I also understand about somatising and how the body expresses emotional unfinished business. Oh lordy, and is my body communicative with me. I guess, what you resist persists. I am a hypochondriac. I do get very stuck in what Myss calls 'wound power'. And I've been hearing myself lately - full of complaints, negativity, blahblahness. Yuk. Hence the blogging silence. I just can't listen to that shit.

The truth? I need a lot more introspection time than I give myself. If I spend too long in the company of others, giving, giving out energy all day long, rushing from one thing to the next, I just end up getting sick.

Ok, well there's my navel-gazing confession of the day.

And I leave you with the story that a wise old therapist told me once: A man, wishing to become more holy and enlightened, went to the local holy man, and told him that he was going to survive on bread and water for as long as it took for him to get wise and holy. The response? "that is not a good idea. if you can survive on bread and water alone, you will expect those after you to survive on stones."

I love that story. To me this is the ultimate story for children of stoics.

Maybe I should form a support group?

PS its not swine flu. its acute sinusitus. owwwwwww.

Friday, August 14, 2009


i submitted two funding proposals, prepared another, was told by my therapist that i'm having a breakthrough, found wheat-free carrot cake, watched my first performance of Paydirt with an audience.

Decided that, perhaps I could,

after all

*the opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not reflect on the publication as a whole.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

legal tender

Every time I go to the Norwood Spar or the 'Tops' bottlestore, I get the best subliminal messaging of my week. I queue to ring up the groceries (loaf of bread, coffee - man do we get through coffee in this house - dishwash liquid, Tanglewood natural yoghurt) and she asks me if I need plastic bags (oh no! I forgot to bring them again!) and then as she totals it all up, and I tell her I'm paying with a debit card, and she swipes the debit card, and she asks me to punch in my code, I look up, and two words are flashing green on the little screen on her till - tender validation. Isn't that sweet? The same at the bottle store. Beer for the boys, a not-too-cheap bottle of red for me. And there it is - blinking green at me. Tender validation.

I'm usually in a grump at this moment, having wended my way through grindy traffic, or squeezing the shopping in between appointments that are Much More Important than bloody Grocery Shopping! Usually a little bit of a scowl lurking around my jowls. I'm not fond of grocery shops, supermarkets, places where I'm reminded that I'm not a hunter gatherer after all and the harvest from my kitchen garden is still not yielding packaged pizza dough. I grumble to myself, like the wolf who missed Red Riding Hood, until I see it. Tender validation.

And I always obey. I always tell myself something really nice, really tender. I do. I say - Tam you're so clever and nice and well done for getting through that traffic, and you're just the best, no-one knows what it takes to be you, but I do, and well done, I think you're great. Good choice of wine too.

Try it - a little bit of tender validation. It works a treat, it really does.

Monday, July 20, 2009

the root of all evil

I need you to all feel very very sorry for me. I do. Feel sorry for me. But that's not enough. The only way I will get through the next few days is if I have your collective sympathy. Please?

I went to the dentist on Friday. For a root canal treatment. I've been putting it off (yes, I know, that makes it worse. I know I know. Ok! I heard you!!) She filled the tooth two and a half months ago and said if it doesn't "settle down" she'll have to take the nerve out. It didn't. Settle down.

So on Friday I went and writhed around on her chair while she "took the nerve out". Which involved her opening up a hole in my tooth so that she could scrape out my sinuses with a rusty nail file. Or so it seemed. Actually it felt like she was succking my eyeball out though my gums. The injection may as well have been a placebo. It soothed the pain like rescue remedy soothes a psychotic fugue: Not at all.

Eventually she stopped, put a plug on the blood bath, gave me a prescription for antibiotics and myprodol and sent me on my wincing way. I spent the weekend in a myprodol blurr. I yelled "s t f up" to the hippy within who doesn't like taking antibiotics.

I went back today, for more. Because she said that waiting any longer would cause me pain - due to pressure build up as the tooth drained. Funny, the pain had just subsided. But five minutes with her and it was right up there again. Even a second of that *%%##*** drill made the richter scale in my mouth skyrocket.

Has dental science progressed at all since 1300? I mean, call me unrealistically optimistic. Tell me I have blind faith in modern science, but really, isn't there a better way to "drain a tooth" than shoving what feels like a serrated needle up there, and poking around til the patient screams?

"Its a very long canal" she says.
"Sorry" she says.
"I know its hurting" she says.
When she removes her rubbery fingers I say, meekly, "why do you suppose it still hurts even after the nerve is removed?"
"I don't know" she says. And goes right back in there.

My bib looked like a prop for a Tarantino movie.

"There's a lot of stuff coming out of here," she says.

And then finally.

"Well, we're just going to have to wait for the antibiotics to work." There's a big pulpy cyst around the root of my tooth, according to the x-ray. It seems I have been sporting this abcessy thing for some weeks now. Which would explain the low energy, foul moods and over reliance on soup and whisky for my nutritional intake.
"It's not in the sinus though," she says, cheerily. Meaning, she didn't actually puncture through to the nasal cavity.

Sorry to be so graphic. I really just need you to feel my pain.

To think she's going to invoice me.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Multiple career disorder

When I was a little girl, quite a little girl, I wanted to be a child pyschologist. I remember it clearly - some kindly grown-up asked me, so what d'you want to be when you are big, Tammy? We were standing outside the creosote-coated wooden structure that I called home.
"A child psychologist" I answered, without missing a beat. Then wondered, why the chuckle?

I'm not sure where I got this from - or what I thought it meant. Was there someone who was that and I admired them? Did I read it in a book? Who knows.

The other thing I wanted to be, apart from a vet, a biologist and a motorbike racer, was a writer. This from as early as I remember.

Someone else asking me that ol question and I remember saying,
"I'm going to be a writer." Made sense. Granny had written books. So had Grandfather.
"Ah, said the person (one of many visitors that came and went through our lives)
"What kind of writer? Like a sign writer? Or a calligrapher?"
No stupid. A writer. The kind that writes books with stories in them. I wonder if I gave her a withering look. Patronising sort, she was.

The words and the bees
Back to the biologist part - actually more of an entomologist. I loved insects. Words and insects. At eight I knew the difference between an etymologist and an entomologist. Duh. I was quite convinced that I would discover a new species of moth, termite, or glow in the dark mosquito. I studied harvester ant nests and intimately understood their social structures and movement patterns. Perhaps I was Eugene Marais in a previous life. I remember being quite shocked when I pulled a copy of Soul of the White Ant off my mother's bookshelf and realised that someone else had been there, done that which I had fervently planned. This was before I went to Proper School, and discovered there was a weird separation between arts and science and apparently you couldn't be a poet-biologist.

The last bullet was plugged into that hope at high school. I adored my biology teacher (Mr Sherry, wherever you are, you rocked). But Chemistry? The teacher was a perv who liked looking down the girls' school blouses. Physics? A cold war that started when he walked into class and caught me drawing a devastatingly accurate caricature of him on the overhead projector.

Without Physics and Chem, Biology A-level wasn't going to happen and by 16 I was firmly on an arts course, for better or worse. The fact that I grew up around bottles of turpentine and pigment can't have helped. Two hippy artist parents? I didn't stand a chance.

A cunning plan
Then I went to Varsity - headlong into more confusion. I started off with that chrystalline logic you have when you are 19. I would major in English Literature, obviously. And I would do Drama for two years only. To learn about character from the inside, you see. And then I would choose Philosophy or something clever so that I would be able to write books that answered all the really important questions about the outer frontiers of reality and consciousness (what can I say - I'm Sag/Scorpio). I think that was the plan, anyway.

Something to fall back on?
At the back of all this, the persistent ring of my grandfather's voice - "you can't make money from this artsy fartsy stuff. You need something to fall back on. A secretarial course. For God's sake don't become a safari guide."

Was drama my thing to fall back on? Or just into, the way one falls into a rich chocolaty mudpatch, sliding stiff-kneed at first (oh no, I don't wanna get my clothes dirty) and then gleefully (wheee! this is fuuun!) and then you sling your first mudball at someone and you're done for, hooked, wallowing forevermore. Inadvertantly calling everyone dahling and using words like emoting. And projecting.

But still, I have career A.D.D.
Let's see. I have been a perfume spritzer, jewellery seller, a costume and set designer, a drama teacher, a waitress, a potter, a proof reader (I suck at that), an industrial theatre scriptwriter-actress-director, a fundraiser (I suck at that too), a proposal writer (I'm good at that), a facilitator and a radio operations communications control officer (aka ROCCO. I'm really good at that). And every now and then, someone pays me to write a play.

No wonder I'm exhausted.

Its eclipse season, and its time to shed some dead wood. Its time to bloody well focus. I "twist and turn like a -- twisty turny thing", to quote Blackadder. Or was it Baldrick. Yep, even this post is making me yawn and squirm and stare out the window.

Really though, it should have been obvious a long time ago. Writing, making plays, whatever. Living in the deadly serious world of what if - that's the place where you can be any damn thing you want. Even - (duh! It should have been obvious!) Even (of course) - a child psychologist.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

my whole wide world

Tamara is feeling extravagent.
Tamara is cracked wide open.
Tamara has not been on facebook for months and suddenly she is all over it, spilling.
Tamara is swelling, surging, cresting, breaking with metaphors that potentially only surfers understand. And she's not even a surfer. Oh you don't have to be a surfer. You just have to be a partial sideline witness to...
oh bollocks. Let me just -

I am an aunty. An Onty, as they say here. My beautiful sister, of thetimesofmiranda, has made herself sacrosanct to that ordinary miracle - the giving of life.
Damn. She has pushed a small (quite big actually) live human creature ( I saw it. IT WAS HUGE. [and very cute]) through her vagina. Seriously. I am not joking. She did this. I was not there. To witness all the things she will ( I hope) blog about in due course. But bloody hell. I am not the first person to be struck dumb by this ordinary miracle. Her husband, for one, looked kind of - well - I've seen that look before. And it wasn't because the lions lost so badly to the boks. (with a face saving comeback today). He is a mensch tho. He hung in there. No fainting. They didn't have to call me. Tho I wanted them to - for what? why? no, I only. No. it was all. It happened as it should. Oh my poor mother, smsing through the night. what - how? now? what? when? Oh! oh bollocks. I answered the phone in my sleep (yes, i did eventually sleep, through my CAPS LOCK smsing to her man ARE YOU SURE I SHOULDN"T be THeRE? receiving his calm No, its ok, all good...responses and then finally, thank thank - yes, oh thank - janelle and i gmailing each other furiously should i be there should i
Mark at 3;40 am its a girl - (yes I thought that, tho only this morning, before that i thought it was a he, in the bath this morning i thought it - of course its a she silly) its all ok she is its all its ok sleep now its a girl its a girl its a girl
And -
And -
I am learning new things about love.
I am.
This feeble heart of mine.

Heh heh.

Seriously though. Miranda will probably say things like - oh I know all mothers have said this before - and she will try to not be a gushing new mom who is a blogger mom who is all full of fuzziness for the babyness.

But just so that you know. And she may be mad at me because I am stealing the gap before she gets home and cozy with her laptop and can say about -

oh man.
Just so you know. She truly IS the most beautiful small piece of angel-mail that ever came to the southern hemisphere. (i can't speak for up there) She is so cute.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Assertiveness training (if that's ok with you)

"I'm doing stress management and assertiveness training next week. A corporate gig."
My sister nearly choked on her soup.
"You? Assertiveness? What did they say? Hey - you're going to do this assertiveness training next week. Without pay. And you just nodded, ok, sure.... right?"

Um. Something like that. No. I am getting paid. Really. Just that, they sold it as an assertiveness course but its not geared for that. Its a stress course. So please just - make it into an assertiveness course, whatever, just, you know, throw in a couple of extra exercises...
Er, ok. Sure, Whatever you say.

Stress management, me?
She who has been eating her lunch at 4 pm because she forgot/ didn't have time/was rushing out the house and left the lunchbox on the washing machine...
Driving and putting on lipstick in the rearview mirror because she's late but she just can't arrive looking like, well, like that.
That funny feeling of - whats that brushing up against my earlobe? Oh, its my shoulder.

Yeah. Right.
But it was fun.
Me and nine stressed employees in a training room. I made them dance, I made them meditate, I made them breathe, I made them look at the deep beliefs underlying their stressors.

It's always the same with those corporate gigs. I gird myself for a long drudge of hard work. The ennui of powerpoint and melamine desks and carpeted rooms with canned air and poor coffee. But inevitably, you get to play with an interesting bunch of real South African DNA. On this gig, there was the poor-me desperately unassertive pet-lover, grappling with big family issues. There was the balding SA version of Ricky Gervais who made sweeping comments, old South Africa style about Zulus being a war-like nation (this was somehow a stressor for him, I didn't quite get why). There was the giggly make-a-joke-out-of-everything woman who is traumatised by Joburg crime and has a desperate need to control her environment and all the people in it. The shy first-born in a family of 9 siblings (father has two wives) who feels burdened by the need to bring his dispersed family together. The just-out-of-varsity bright young thing who is just biding her time in this job. The hardened credit-controller who thinks she has no issues with assertiveness, its everyone around her who has the problem.

I love these courses. They are exhausting. But there's something very rewarding about working with the raw matter of peoples' problems, stresses and organisational miscomforts. And trying to release some of that stuff, and forge new pathways. A two day course is a pathetic amount of time to do this, of course, and next time, I'll politely say that I think it might be better if they tailor the course towards proper assertiveness exercises, instead of asking us to make the shoe fit, magically. If that's ok with them, of course.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Out of Office Autoreplies

My dear friend JC (you know who you are) recently introduced me to McSweeneys, that fantastic writing project/community, with their breathstopping beautiful periodical books. Where have they been all my life? In their own words,

"McSweeney's Quarterly Concern publishes on a roughly quarterly schedule, and we try to make each issue very different from the last. One issue came in a box, one was Icelandic, and one looks like a pile of mail. In all, we give you groundbreaking fiction and much more."

Straying from my task of hammering out a script ( I loathe writing to deadline it makes me cross and rebellious), I wandered onto the site and found these out of office autoreplies. by Jim Stallard.

I love them. And what a cunning and elegant way to disappear for a while, which is precisely where my fantasies have been this morning.

Let's see...
I will be at my desk from 5pm until 6pm daily, while you are stuck in traffic.

I will be out of the office until September when the weather improves. Please direct urgent enquiries to my therapist.

Students, I will not be responding to any more emails this month. I have already invoiced for the hours we spent together.

I will be out of the office indefinately until I become a successful fiction writer.

I have forsworn email, blogging, twittering and facebooking until further notice. Its a bet I have with my husband and a lot of money is at stake. Please don't tempt me.

I will be spending this week at the bottom of a well in the hope it makes me as good a writer as Murakami. You may send small folded paper aeroplanes down but please only do it at midday. Food parcels also welcome.

I will be by the bear cage at Joburg zoo for the remainder of this week. No sudden movements.

What's your out of office autoreply this week?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

In the meantime

As you may or may not be aware, the purpose of Fleeing Muses was to create a song to beckon those long skirted ladies back to a place where I could hear them. I needed to seduce them, to make a leafy grotto where they might feel at home. A fireside where they could warm their toes and voices, sipping wine and teasing frogs and crickets with their song until their friends joined them. So that stories could begin to waft around me once more.

Well, for now at least, the libations have worked. Thanks to your generous participation in the endeavour, I might add. Your comments have been like compost, and I'm really grateful for that.

The channels are open it seems, and this time its a steady flow. Read all about the project I'm working on, its called Paydirt, and its a ... hmm, well for now I'm calling it a sort of immorality play about Joburg. Its a space to have fun. It opens in Grahamstown at the National Festival of the Arts in about a months time.

So please do pop over and share in the excitement.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Other Side

You will forgive me.

I know you will.

I simply need some space.

The wedding, and all its attendant stories...it's just too fresh, too intimate, too close. For here, you know?

I had put so much on hold ("I'm too busy now, I'll do it after the wedding")
It stacked up against me, like the Odds.

And then I got the Odds. Tumbling down on top of me. (and everyone near me).

That to-do list grew teeth and a long, scaly tail. It lashed me.

Having so dutifully trained myself in the art of saying Yes, it seemed I had caught it like a swiney fever.

Tamara, will you supervise extra students?
Tamara, will you re-write this course for us?
By Friday?
(fool! you can't do that!) spake the sense voice. But sense-voice was in brackets. And smaller font.
Tamara, remember that proposal you promised us...
Can we have it this week?
Tamara, we start rehearsing our Grahamstown play this week, you know that don't you?

And - no-one warned me. That somehow, post-wedding, hubby and I would not so much wallow in blissful marital tranquillity as take the opportunity to Sort Through Our Issues. Once and for all. At high volume. Well, at least the passion is still there after 13 years of cohabitation. Of course, he had his reasons. (see above). Sense-voice outsourced itself to someone who cares. Sjoe, but a girl can hang on to her old issues if she tries, ne? And fight for them! Anyway, its over now, and peace has returned to the valley.

Baby steps, and I have managed to
a) clear the decks
b) remind myself of The Power of No (apologies to Mr Tolle)
c) forgive myself for not having sorted through over 1000 wedding photos
d) forgive myself for not having written up all the wedding anecdotes in champagne-witty prose
e) go to another friend's wedding in the Eastern Cape (a lekker skop it was too)
f) start the script for a certain extremely exciting project... a production called Paydirt. It's about being a Joburger. It premieres in Grahamstown at the National Festival of the Arts in a month. And we are blogging the whole thing here. Woooohooooooooo!!!

I'm back. Wedding stories must wait, I just can't put them here now, not yet. I need Distance. I need Assimilation. I know you understand. I just know it.

I am trying to learn something you see. I am trying to take things one at a time. I am trying to learn that the ability to multi-task is not equivalent to worthiness.

Oh look. Now I've gone and burned the supper.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

bad headweather

Unseasonally severe head weather has interrupted our broadcasts. Random electric storms, hail, occasional patches of heavy fog and isolated incidents of flooding have displaced thousands of scheduled activities.

We resume service when calm returns to the hood. the head.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It was a dark and misty night

Being the perceptive readers you are, you will understand that if I now begin to spin tales of What Went Wrong, this is no reflection of me as a person somewhat prone to the half empty school of life. Nor is it proof that I have an obsessive tendency to hark back on regret and imperfection. Oh no. It is merely evidence of the fact that a good story is all about What Went Wrong. No one (really) needs hear the endless oohs and ahs of how wonderful it all was.

Truly, it was all splendid, and all was as it should be. But drama is not built on those details. Drama is about expectations thwarted, old schoolfriends biting down on old bitternesses, perfect plans being lanced by the fierce needle of, well, life, really. Drama is about the fly in the ointment, winking at you as it flaps its last oily flap. Drama is about breaking down a quarter of the way up the mountain on twos-day night and there's not a thing you can do about it. And lets face it, its drama you want, right?

You see, there was no margin for error. My to-dos seemed to bulk out and bristle at me every time I ticked one of them off. They'd just re-assemble themselves, multiplying, grinning, grasping at me. I'd slay one, and they'd breed. My notebook was full. The excel sheet long since abandoned. My house full of well meaning relatives who really wanted to help, if only I had time to sit for five minutes and think of a task for them. Or somehow, download the contents of my head into a verbal form that someone outside my head could understand.

And then I got a very bad hangover. Ha. I make it sound like someone mailed it to me in the post. Truly, my Pakistani Malawian Bridesmaid schoolfriend who now lives in the genteel countryside of Great Britain somewhere did a fabulous job of organising me a fine hen night. (I know. Apparently that's what it is called.) All was as it should be. Guffaw inducing gifts, my dear mates around one table, too much Cava. It was good. And like so many before us, we thought that More would make it Better. And it didn't. It made me lose my phone in my friend's couch and not know where it was the next day. It made me thirsty and barely able to concentrate for my very early hair appointment the next morning. It made me lose a day. That was Wednesday. Threesday. In the later part of that day, I fetched my mother-in-law-to-be from the airport. After dry retching in a toilet in Newtown, waiting for T to get to work (late) so that I could get my phone from her (do you have any idea how important your phone is on Threesday?), after remembering with faint horror that I had smoked a cigarette last night. After sitting in the bank for hours because I realised I had actually left my bank card in the machine the day before and, miraculously, someone had handed it in. I still got to the airport. I also fetched the wonderful P, a friend from Cape Town who was to be one of several wonderful wedding elves.

So on Thursday, the pressure was not only on it was unfeasible. The Plan was that on Thursday, mother and sister were to travel ahead in the slow Pajero, and we (bridesmaid and P and I) were to follow behind, leave my non 4x4 vehicle in Dullstroom and proceed together up the hill, with luggage and wine and mattresses and other very important bits and pieces. So that on Friday we would have the luxury of waking early, setting up the lanterns, picking some wild flowers, transferring the final playlists from computer to ipod, and just generally soaking up the marvels of the place we chose as our nuptual spot. Well.

A midday leaving would have been (just) feasible. But due to the lost Wednesday, and the fact that I still had ridiculous amounts of last minute emails to send, and B and I still had a last minute meeting with lawyer that morning, Thursday just didn't manage to make herself long enough for us. She tried. We actually were on the road before the bad traffic hour. But that didn't matter, because a truck had lost its load on the outskirts of town, and we waited. and waited. and waited. Tearing at my clutch in static traffic. And I won't tell you how fast I drove to get to Dullstroom because my mom is reading this, but when we finally got to her, in her patient Paj, it was late. Dark, late. No time for five intrepid women to be heading up a dark hill on a rocky road with a heavy load. But hey. Stubbornness is what we are made of, us Carr girls, and there were three of us. So off we went. In the valiant Paj.

We got over the railway tracks. Up the first bit of rutted nastiness. Up onto the stony section. And the Paj she coughed once, stalled and - that was it. Alternator. An old illness.

About 9, the moon is still high and perky. I phone Jacob the farm manager to see if he can bring the tractor down to tow us. Fine, in theory. But he is currently at the bottom of the hill and must walk up, to get the tractor to bring to us. This will add two hours. So we do the sensible thing - find the duvets, the bedding, the screw-top wine bottles. Its cold. we sip. we sleep.

Jacob arrives, in a tractor with no lights. The once-perky moon is slipping away and the hills are exhaling a soft, icy breath. The tractor can tow us, a bit. Slowly. I walk next to it with the torch, and easily keep apace. Its going to be slow work. Mom's windows are all misted up, she has to trust the pool of light that is my torch. But then there's a steep bit of road and big loose rocks, and just no way that the tractor will do it. We're too heavy. Jacob can't help. We must walk.

So, we grab the food we can - a couple of shopping packets in front of the car.. We can only find one torch, because everything was so hastily packed. Off we go.

Its 9km from the bottom of the hill to the farm, but in the dark and after the sleep, I have no sense of how far we are. We are a patient, strong lot of girls, really we are. My Ma, who's developing a bit of a nasty cough, my 6-month pregnant sister, my bridesmaid with bad shoes, and the silent stoic P, who recently did the Rwenzoris and doesn't have a complaint in her body. Except, did I mention that we are all pretty hungry, coz we ate badly that day, it being the day it was...

I don't know what time it was when we set out. But I do remember the moment we couldn't see the moon any more, when it sank below the last gleaming hill and the deep silence got dark. And we had our cellphones and a torch. And we trudged.

And trudged.

And at some point I thought of Xerxes and his crazy campaigns of war, pouring endless resources into a no-win ego-hole... we shall overcome. And I thought of British grit. And I thought of my grandfather, the walker. And I thought what on earth for?

But mostly we didn't think much, except (everynowandthen) about a Nice Cup of Tea and a crackling fire. Well, I did.

And then, as we reached the top, the part where the road splits and the one you have to take is the less travelled one, and its hard to spot - the mist came up. Like when you're a kid and they blindfold you and spin you around, and then you suddenly have no idea which way is left, right, up, down. The world just throws a cloth over your head and you have no idea which way to turn. And you're on a mountain and there's no moon and you know there are cliffs that you could tumble down...

It was 2 am when Tonglen opened her warm crackling loins for us (yip, that's what it felt like). And the aga was lit, and we had tea and we made heated up tinned sweetcorn and chickpeas and tomato salsa and I realised that the heavy item in the packet I had been carrying was not rice as I had thought but sugar. and we hadn't brought the bread.

And we slept soooo well.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Vote for Love

It's election day here in the sunny south, and I'm sitting trying to sift out priorities from a clamour of to-dos, things that have been on hold for months now. Truly, I've had the busiest three months of my life. And those who know me will understand that that is quite a claim - I'm generally a buzzy backsoon kind of a gal. Aside from the military operation that was preparing for the wedding, I've been wrestling with starting a new job (part time teaching at the University. In subjects I am verrry rusty at) and starting my new company. More on that another time.

I've never been good at prioritising. I tend to do what other people need me to do first, and my other urgents slip and slide until they clamour angry all at once. Well, obviously the most important thing of the day was to cast my vote. We the residents of the blue wall were at the voting stations with the wind snapping at our ears at half past six this morning. My vote, my secret. It wasn't altogether an easy choice to make. Not this time. The three main protagonists are all very flawed, and there are a strange and motley collection of walk-on part(ie)s that leave you scratching your head in wonderment. Interesting times ahead. But still, I made my X and I'm satisfied.

Other things clamour at me today too - I want to sit and sort through these wedding pics, put them up on flickr, get the other discs from the other photographers (we didn't have one official person y'see. Many of our friends are gifted souls with great cameras, so we just imposed on them. I think there were eight in all!!)

I need to prepare reading lists for the MA students that I will be facing next week, and for some reason this whole prospect fills me with the Fear. It involves going back to my ten-year old MA thesis and digging up old Performance Studies notes. Postcolonial theory, ritual theory, arguments on cultural appropriation, the Other, ooo my blood pressure sinks to all time lows. I went to the library yesterday and came home with an armful of books, which normally would make me buzz with excitement.

But. I have Toothache. Aah, you see, I told you I couldn't prioritise. Before the wedding I ignored the little voice that said Just. Go. To the dentist. That loose filling will come back to bite you (arkark). You will. Be. Sorry.

And I am. Verry verry sorry. So my head is full of election manifestos and Richard Schechner and 'Decolonising Methodologies' and deep thud inflammation. I am swigging colloidal silver but I fear I may need antibiotics. Keeping the pain at bay with heavy painkillers, and my whole body just begging for immobility and silence.

So the stories wait another day, I'm afraid. The good news is that we have two more public holidays coming up, so this weekend you can expect a thousand and one wedding tales. But for now I'm taking myself back to bed, where I will sip yoghurt through a straw.

Before I go, though. I have to share this most hilarious photograph. After the ceremony, B and I and various family (and team of photographers!) were behind the dharma centre, having the official family pics taken. Everybody patiently sipping their drinks waiting for the bridal couple to arrive, and it was taking ages. The sun would go behind a cloud, and then we'd have to wait for the light to return. Then we had to turn and focus on each of the photographers in turn, to avoid the kind of fragmented staring in all directions look. And then the light just kept getting more and more beautiful and they wanted to take more and more pics, with more and more different backdrops and then it all got too much and I suddenly got fed up and said right that's it, no more photos, I need to be with my friends. I mean, really, I know the photos are important of course, but we had spent a monumental amount of effort getting everyone up the hill and I was suddenly panicky that time was swirling down the plughole. So we get back to the dharma centre, and all the wonderful radiant light-beings that are our friends cheer as we arrived, and then B insists on one more photo on the steps of the dharma centre, juuuust as the light is disappearing. This is it. This is the photo that confirms for me the true insanity of the whole undertaking.

I mean, who the hell do we think we are? Who do I think I am? Evita Peron?

I can't stop giggling at this picture. There's no-one there, in front of us. No big crowd that we are rallying. Its just us, a couple of shivering photographers and a marvelous view. Its my election pic for y'all. Vote for the Wedding Party. Coz love rocks.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Ok, Ok, ok! I'm deafened! This is the sound of bated breath. There it is. I get it. You want pics, you want stories, you want the packaged version of this particular ritual of matrimony of Bernd and Tamara. AND YOU WANT IT NOW. Yes, I know. So do I. Believe me, the packaged version would do just fine. I'm awash with images and emotions and moments of overwhelm, both remembered and in the present. I'm tossed about like a bit of flotsam on the remembered current of sudden cringes and big heart openings. I don't know where to start.

I'm told it was a 'great' wedding. A 'beautiful' wedding. I know it was a success. I know I loved every single moment of the 4th of April. Though truly, the mad scramble days leading up to it, and the days immediately after were extremely challenging for me. And of course I have a stash of tiny regrets and oh nos for the event itself. But, yes. It was good magick. serious magick. And I am altered. Yes I am.

Gradually, I will find words, sequences, to describe this day, and its attendant dramas. But for now, I give you moments.

Here are some of them.

We will have very very many photos. We didn't have an official photographer, but about six people took the task seriously, and some of the six have reported a total of about six HUNDRED pics each. So I have some sorting to do, and I'll put the good ones on flickr, and I'll send you the login details if you ask me nicely. My man is shy about publishing pics in this open realm, so. Just ask. We'll email.

And words, stories... they're coming. We only had a week to recover from this massive organisational feat. And returned to real life - catching up on stuff left undone and a country preparing to vote in the most important election in a decade. big stuff, real stuff...

but stories still sifting and turning and bubbling in the pot. so stay tuned. much more to come, including top 5 wedding boo-boos...

AAaah, but in the words of Chimera, as plagiarised by me in my wedding speech... love rocks! Especially, love on the rocks.

Friday, March 27, 2009

You know you're getting married when...

You trap your own arm in the electric window of your car when reaching for a parking ticket (Just one step ahead of yourself)

No matter how hard you try to be in the present moment you keep popping out of your body and floating over an imaginary table arrangement sometime in the not too distant future

Your bed time reading is Rumi

You keep filling up with tears for inexplicable reasons like how beautiful the peaches are that the street fruit seller offers you

Your boyfriend and you have never ever had such quick turnarounds between disagreement and make-up

You wake up in the night sweating about all the people you wish you could have invited but didn't coz you had to draw the line somewhere.

Your handbag is a clutch of receipts.

Your bank account is gasping

You stop at green traffic lights and don't realise it til people behind you hoot

You walk past florist shops and give them the same eye that hawks give when they spy mice in the grass

Your family members suddenly think you're a travel agent

You are immersed in 'life admin' documents but don't know what to sign your name as

You don't know if its too late to invite the people you wanted to invite now that two people have cancelled and you could theoretically make up the numbers but isnt that kind of rude.

You cannot, simply cannot think about anything else

You are trying not to behave like a diva, but....

You have any to add, those of you that have been through this particular little rite of passage?

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Revolution is for sale

Its kind of a dusty taste, like eating cornflakes that fell in the driveway and then you had to scoop them back in your bowl coz you didn't have a choice. The realisation that the South African government is not going to issue the Dalai Lama a visa.




Its "in the best interests of the country" if he doesn't come. Says the same government.


It best serves us, if a world renowned leader of peace love tolerance compassion et al stays away? is treated as an undesirable alien? Hangonaminite. We are South Africa. We are a country that by definition should be in favour of love tolerance compassion respect, the constitutional right to freedom of movement... er..
wot? you gonna ask his holiness to show his dompas?

Ok, try not to emotional about it, says my love. Just do a discourse analysis of the press release. Just look at it coolly. Even if you do that, its kinda shocking. I mean, on what basis do you normally deny someone a visa? If they are a suspected terrorist? A convicted drug dealer? This is the same country that gave refuge to Aristide of Haiti when no-one else would have him. (try to look at it unemotionally, he says).

The press release says, no, we're not aware of any pressure from China. We just think it would be in the best interests of the country, Because its a conference about Soccer. (bow low now, bow low) and the link between Soccer and Peace. and so what contribution would the Dalai Lama be making? (to this great moment) The press release seems to be saying his Holiness will just detract from the whole soccer thing by drawing attention away from the 2010 World Cup (bow down low, bow down) and putting it onto the whole Tibet thing. And therefore its not in the best interests... etc etc.

Um, hang on, let me pick that logic apart once more... you DON'T want him to draw attention away from the conference... and so you're going to refuse him entry? Because that will keep the newspapers focused on the issue at hand. Which is... um, what was it again? Soccer, peace, tolerance, anti-racism, human rights... oh yes. Ok. Funny, I didn't know a thing about it til this.

Oh bollox.

Its not a bit funny. I wish it was. The worst thing about it is that the only active outraged voices are the octagenarians. The dear Archbishop and his ageing peacekeepers.

It does, it makes me feel like like I swallowed sawdust.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Might as well face it.

Most of us have been disappointed by love at some time in our lives.

But this is not a post about that.

This is a random and a rambling post. Its about gloves.

A dear friend and I have a game we play from time to time - replacing the word 'love' in popular songs, with 'glove'. Its fun.

"What've gloves got to do with it?"
"All you need are gloves! Gloves are all you need"
"Might as well face it, you're addicted to gloves"
"Gloves are in the air"
"Oooohhh, I need your gloving..."
"A glove is in the air..."

Well, we think its fun.

This post is an antidote.

I got two awards, you see. I've been awarded for being a blog thinker. A think blogger. A Cognisense Blognosense foggisense blogger. Val should know, I was always a thoughtful child. (and a vomitous one, but that's another story)

I distinctly remember someone saying to me once "Stop staring at me like that!" I had no idea. I was playing my favourite game - stare at someone and see their face as a baby, and then warp your vision to see them as an old person. I loved that game. I guess it must have been kind of freaky to be on the receiving end.

At school I was always told by my sage friends, "you think too much."

So, dear Val, and Karen, who awarded it again (some time ago I admit).

Thank you. I humbly accept, and I'm afraid you are probably right. I'm a bit of a thoughtful lass. Thanks for the nudge. Time I got back on the old cushion and emptied my head a little. Too many thoughts - eish, not a comfortable place. As Louis van Loon once said - if your thoughts are like the spaghetti, try to be in the spaces in between. Don't be the spaghetti.

I am not my thoughts. They just borrow me.

But thanks anyway, dear Val and Karen, whose blogs are not devoid of thoughtfulness either.

If you could appropriate one invention or device from Harry Potter's world, what would it be? Me - the Pensieve. That marvelous tool that Dumbledore used to empty his head for a while so that he could think properly. Oh yeah. I need that one. Especially now.

In other news - I am trying to avoid being Her.

You know Her.

I'd only ever heard of her. The Zilla. Not that virulent lioness of Western Cape politics.

I mean.

Shhh. [Bridezilla]. She who must not be given space.

She who tears menus with her teeth and flosses with rose thorns afterwards.

She who rants at the shrinking groom, as she towers and totters and crashes and-

She who must not come here. No.

Its not true.

We don't all have a tiny bridezilla lurking in us, waiting to come out.


Who said that?

I'll zap you with the registry gun and put you on my list.

I'll Seating Plan you out of existence.

Of course I remember why I'm doing this. Shattap!

In other thoughts -

You know how in many traditions there is a taboo around women preparing food when they are menstruating? Because they are thought to be Unclean? And then some feminist thought says that this is a patriarchal invention, that men associate female 'hotness' with impurity because they are trying to otherise femininity or some suchness?

Don't you think just maybe its a Cunning Plan invented by women, so that women can have a bloody week off? Pun bloody well intended.


That's better.


By the way....

Have you ever been in a glove?

P.S. I will award the thoughtfulness blog to 5 others, as prescribed. I'm just not sure who yet. I have to think about it.

*Bridezilla (a portmanteau of bride and Godzilla) is a generic term used to describe a difficult, unpleasant, perfectionist bride who leaves aggravated family, friends and bridal vendors in her wake. A bridezilla is obsessed with her wedding as her perfect day and will disregard the feelings of the family, bridesmaids and even her groom in her quest for the perfect wedding. -Wikipedia

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Father, you'll do

"Garsfontein, I don't trust Garsfontein. Ghastlyfontein, that's what it is. Klinkerbrick and vicious dogs, that's Ghastlyfontein for you. I don't want to get married by someone who lives in Garsfontein."

In spite of his grumbling, my love is being good natured about the Saturday morning drive to meet an unknown pastor that we found on the internet.

We wanted an old family friend of B's to do the ceremony. Someone he knew well as a teenager. Unfortunately, with two adopted autistic children to look after, the old man is not able to make the journey.

The ad, if there was an ad, should've read: Wanted: Lutheran marriage officer with strong Buddhist leanings, must possess own 4x4.

We were starting to get a little jumpy about the fact that this was still a big blank on the excel sheet. (yes, we have an excel sheet. we do not have a wedding planner. We are the wedding planner). The kind faced man who could have done some of it in German - not available. The Irish fellow who seemed to have a twinkly sense of humour - not available. My tentative attempts to enlist a certain pagan ritualist - not meeting much humour.

It's a tricky one. B chose this date because it is the anniversary of his father's death. His father was a minister. (the only man, who could ever teach me, was the son of preacher man...) B wants his mother, who is still stolidly faithful to her husband's memory after 20 years, to have a joyous association with this date. To freshen it with love and renewal. I'm so aware of the presence of this man I have never met, in the silences, the things that are unsaid. I feel the sway of his invisible influence. How would Papa have done the ceremony? is thick in the air, unspoken. Oh, on the surface, we know we want to make it our own, and we know that all weddings will ultimately represent a meeting point between two family's value systems, but... I was starting to feel that the date was lending the event all this extra significance.

One night I dreamed we were on the water, on a boat. One of the Seka actors, Simon Banda, fished up a head from the water. He thought it was a large mango or coconut but it turned out to be a head - I didn't get a look at it, but they told me it was my beloved's father. Still intact - not gruesome at all. My dreams have had base notes of kindness, with twists of anxiety and sudden flames of rage, but this one was ponderous and matter of fact

So a late night fever of filling out internet request forms and the only one who calls me back is the strong-voiced man from Garsfontein. He spams me with forms and glowing testimonials from brides and mothers of brides. Why am I suspicious of glowing praise? Where does that come from in my biography? Er, you don't have to answer that.

So we head out on the N1 to Pretoria early on Saturday, the green Merc crammed with expectations and doubts and jokes and family pressures and also just the gentle reminders to each other of what we want (and what we don't want) and what's the secret sign that we will use to communicate to one another that this one Won't Do.
B will touch his mala beads. I will flick my sunglasses on my head a couple of times. Ok.

Garsfontein is indeed klinkerbrick followed by facebrick followed by more klinkerbrick, and the roads are named after breeds of dog. Seriously. Mastiff, Borzoi, Boerbull. We are relieved the minister does not live in Pitbull drive. We are relieved to see that he has three very cute daschunds. We are relieved to see the twinkle in eyes framed by deep smile lines.

B does his thing - explains the intricacies of what we want and don't want, the traditional Lutheran order of service, the additional vows we want in there, and our anxieties, and our wish to know what he is comfortable with, or not. The oddness of sitting on a beige couch in a stranger's house, awkwardly trying to articulate the complexity of syncretic traditions, symbols and beliefs that have accrued to us over our years together. Trying to pin down an order of service that won't make his mother clutch her crucifix in bafflement, but will leave room for us to express ourselves. I think we did a good job.

"I am an inter-denominational marriage officer," he explains. "I have married Pagans, I have married Christians, I married a Jew and a Muslim last week. I have married Buddhists. I will include whatever vows you like. I won't do Pagan practice. I won't chant." He shares a story about two "nature worshippers" who chose to marry outdoors, "in nature". "Nature was kind to them," he smiled. "It poured with rain. The bride's mascara ran down her face, the guests were soaked...Oh, it always rains in April," he cautions me.

He has a big strong voice, he has a sense of humour. He is relatively open-minded. We hope he won't be sexist. He is prepared to travel. He can do all the legal stuff, so its an all in one go affair. He has spirit. Or, I suppose he would say, he is guided by Spirit. B says he will be sparing with details to his Ma about the man's Pentecostal leanings. He is obviously a tad theatrical and can work a crowd, so at least it won't be boring. There is no need to stroke the mala beads or fiddle with sunglasses. He'll do.

He won't chant, but he'll do. I wonder if he'll wear an Elvis suit?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

This one is not about a wedding

I promise. I won't mention it once.

I'm just feeling a sudden rush and swell of goodwill towards the beautiful city I live in.

This happened prior to reading this hilarious article by Jeremy Clarkson about our lavender lined streets. Ok, so Jeremy hasn't been to Alex in winter near midnight, and obviously hasn't had the experience of being young sexy poor female and Zimbabwean on the streets of Hillbrow, or rich and driving a verrrry desirable car on the Malboro offramp, but still - he's right, to a certain extent. Joburg is piss-easy and safe, if you play it right.

I'm busy working on a little something with a dear friend, for the Grahamstown festival. A piece about Jozi. A love poem to Jozi. An exploration into - what is it that makes you love and survive this place? One of my favourite things in this city is listening to people give directions. It literally makes me gas up with giggles, I can't quite say why. Its a certain goodwill promise we have to each other as citizens - we help you get where you need to be. You take the Riviera offramp, ok, then turn left but get into the right lane immediately...then right and second left into, I think its second avenue Houghton...
Oh, I could write a whole play with people giving directions. Or a dance piece. lost people, giving each other directions and missing. Wrong turns and dead ends, cordoned off streets "for security reasons" and negotiating the space between the rising panic of being lost and the delight of discovering a new road or two in a part of town you've never been.

I love this mad city, all of a sudden. When I was 17 my dad owned a flat in Hillbrow - its now a derelict part of town, but (perhaps) on the rise again. Oh, I remember walking up the rise of the 'brow, to the bookshop, to Look n Listen. I remember buying James Dean posters in the poster shop, feeding a sweet teenage obsession. I remember getting flashed by a Twist street vagrant - a foreshadowing of the days when one wasn't allowed to walk those streets alone. Again.

Aah, but this city gets her grip around you, and I'd never have said that five years ago when I was trying to be faithful to The Mountain (of Cape Town. yes, Shiny, I'm talking to you).

I love her history - the gangs, the fever of goldrush, the sudden streets, the dustbowl politics and the hastily erected rules and regulations and streets and forest plantations.

I love the way whole streets and buildings have their identities erased and pasted over and erased again. Joburg has been built and rebuilt and erased and built again several times over.

I dunno, I reckon the city she has a certain something, bouganvillia and koi pond outlets aside.

Since the Georges first hit paydirt here, and the whole fabric of lies and hustle and bluff started to gather momentum, I reckon its a space where you can spin your own hustle and bluff and blunder and people might just actually pay you for it. The tricky part is, she can just just as easily eat you alive as pay you out for your chutzpah. What's it gonna be?

Ah, Jozi, my city. You wanna visit? Text me, I'll give you directions.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The road to Tonglen

is not for the faint hearted.

This is us, stuck. Note that it is a Landrover that is stuck. Not promising. But also worse than it looks, because the road had been badly chewed up by a logging company, who will fix this section. It won't be so bad in April.

Will it?

Surely the sheer volume of rain will have abated by then. Won't it?

Haha. Actually, the problem with this road normally is not mud but rockiness. High clearance vehicle needed. The mud is unusual.

We had fun though. When the wheels started spinning we jumped out to check which bit of road was safest - and A, battling the slippery slope, slid like a heavy ton of metal towards a deep donga. And so we paused, hovering on the edge of it. And phoned ahead to the farm to Louis who had arrived in the afternoon. Louis to call Jacob in the tractor to tow us out. Then we sat and marvelled at the milky way as it slowly emerged in all its finery. And slapped at mosquitoes and made bad jokes about the slippery slope and sliding to new lows and being stuck in a rut and such. Just the kind of chitchat you make with psychologists who own landrovers and are embarrassed to have to call for help. And when help arrived, B and I had that jolt of recognition in the dark, thinking, but we've met Louis before - where, where, when?

And later, when everyone was muddy and lighting the paraffin lamps to get dinner ready, we tried to figure it out -
B: was it Cape Town? Did you ever live in Cape Town?
L: Yes, for a while
[but no, it didn't seem like it was there]
T: did you ever spend time at the retreat centre in Ixopo?
L: no, never.
B: Durban?

And in the freshness of the morning the conversation idled from wedding plans and family to conservation to art and sculpture, and I mentioned my mom's upcoming exhibition and Paul said, what's your mom's name and I told him and Louis said, Oh I have one of her paintings. Oh! He went to Kapani.(my family lodge/home village) When? For the Millennium, that fabulous crazy party - Oh Oh Oh!!! B, this is where we know Louis from, silly silly! And of course! He was there, he was staying with Janelle, he's Janelle's mate!! Ha! That bad mad crazy rainy floody muddy season when everyone seemed to be sliding towards ruin - and that bizzaaaaaarre party when you had to go dressed as something beginning with M, and mother was a malaria patient (literally - but she still went to the party) and father was a motor-cycle accident victim (literally, with real bruises in all shades of purple and green). That crazy season when everyone was fighting and B coined the phrase "come to Kapani, where the houses are closer than the spouses"

Oh I love this tiny world, and the fact that A, who owns Tonglen, seems to have a silver thread linking him and us to all sorts of spidery webnesses. And Louis is an events organiser and gifted me with heaps of excelelnt advice and ideas. And another of the Tonglen guests on the weekend (A does have fabulous friends) was also a delight to meet - a lass who shares so many of my passions and obsessions that she could have been a parallel life self. An environmental writer whose 'favourite issues' are elephants and human wildlife conflict andandand - what a delight. Its not easy finding such kindred souls in Joburg, so - yipeee!

So I'm not going to post loads of pics, as I want it to be a suprise for guests who may visit here. But they do need to be reassured that the journey is well worth it. So. This is what you wake up to. Just one of several lung-expanding views.


Yes, it is going to happen there, and I am truly mad to choose this spot. Its not geared for this kind of occasion, and just about everything needs to be brought in. But its beautiful. There you have it.

I came away with a hefty to-do list, and then suddenly it was Friday and my Monday to-dos remain undone, and now its Monday again. I'm not sure how this keeps happening. Compression of time, and lots going on. Last year I had an excessive luxury of solitary time at the laptop, ambling from blog to blog at the sedate pace of a rose sniffer. Now I check updates on my phone in queues. New teaching job, crushing amounts of life admin (the tax return still glaring at me from behind the cupboard door) and of course its that time of year when proposals need to get written, and, and and.

Off I go then, into the new week. Have a good one!