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.