Archive | February 2014

Crossing Continents

There’s an amazing fluidity to rural living here in Africa, that can be a little disconcerting if you’re not used to it. “Leave you watch behind and bring a book” would be my advice.

Mama is up and about by 4am and has knocked us up at 4:09. “It’s OK, Mama, there’s plenty of time! I mutter sleepily. We are to leave for Kokstad at 6am. Ablutions in the Kraal are fairly rudimentary ,as one doesn’t linger in the pit latrine, and all else is accomplished with an enamel bowl and a bar of soap, so I wasn’t going to shift until 5:30 at the earliest.

It is now 0705. We duly left at 0600 for the five minute drive down the N2 to the town of Qumbu from whence the delegation of Anglicans, of which Mama Alice is one, are leaving for a very important conference on the future of the diocese. It’s pointless asking at what time we’re going to set off. Our part is to convey Mamas Alice and Iva, following the delegates in the minibus.

Alarmingly, if you’re accustomed to knowing where you’re headed, know one seems to know where this conference IS precisely. Apparently we are to be notified by ‘phone – at some point. There is nothing unusual about this, the delay is almost certainly due to the late arrival of a delegate from a distant location who has had to hitch a lift, and the uncertaintity as to the venue equally explainable – perhaps he’s the guy that knows.

So we wait.

Yesterday was HOT. 35C. Even the gale blowing off the ocean did little to quell the effect. Because Pt St. John’s is the equivalent to Carson City during the reign of Billy The Kid. (A SLIGHT exaggeration), we decided to leave the car and all our belongings , at the hotel, and walk into town. We had a date, having promised to meet Zawlibhanzi in town at the furniture store where he works. He had often regailed his workmates with his stories about his trip to the UK IN 2005, and now he wanted to present us to them, as evidence that his travellers tales were actually true…

Trouble was, both of us had left it to the other to ascertain exactly where the furniture store was. Port St John’s is a small town, seven streets at the most, so I doubt either of us anticipated a problem. As it turns out, every street had at least two shops selling furnishings of one sort or another, so it became immediately apparent that finding Zwalibhanzi was not going to be quite as straightforward as we had hoped.

I remembered a casual remark about a perpetual ‘Sale Now On’ banner, and Ray recalled mention of a red roof, so we weren’t completely clueless. That neither coincided,wasn’t helpful. Being a dutiful wife, I felt it necessary to point out HIS shortcomings on the directions issue, whilst, unsuccessfully, attempting to relieve myself of all responsibility.

Trouble is, we were not exactly inconspicuous…. Curious eyes followed this odd, elderly, white couple attempting in mangled Xhosa to ask for ‘Mr Cingo’. Some shook their heads warily, one directed us to the back of the store ( wrong one) where I shouted, gaily, ‘Come out wherever you are!’ and was politely escorted from the premises. That was embarrassing.

I’m glad we persevered. Five shops into the search, a smiling Zwalibhanzi appeared. We were duly introduced to his bemused colleagues, had a good laugh about the hunt, hugs all round and departed.

A short stop at Second Beach for a swim. Or not. I read the ‘ High Risk’ warning and decided that death-by-shark is not my preferred exit strategy.

I love Second Beach. I first came here in 2002 with the Eastern Cape contingent of Global Teachers. We were accommodated in ‘Lily Lodge’ which is right on the shore. We arrived after dark, and immediately threw ourselves on our backs on the sand to gaze at the most incredible light show above us.

THAT’s the Milky Way! I overheard a colleague explain to another who’d never noticed it before… .

I am having a private bet. Will we leave before 8am? It’s 0748 and my money’s against.

Fortunately, I have another book to start, and it has 627 pages.

Second Beach



We left the Church at 0759, so I was conceding the bet. Now, at 0816, parked a minute away, outside a store in town, I’ve revised my decision. I do not consider myself departed. Kokstad is still two hours away.

The plan appears to be, wait two hours before leaving, then drive like a bat out of hell in a vain attempt to arrive on time.

The unforeseen must always be expected. We have arrived in Kokstad, minus the rest of the delegation, who,contrived to leave us behind shortly after Qumbu. We were stuck behind a lorry on an incline, and that was that. We might have expected that the bus driver would wait for us, but he was in a bad mood. And the cause, in part, for the delay, having refused to budge before everyone stumped an extra R10.

We found the Conference, through the intervention of St Bede. The Mamas went off to praise God and put the world to rights, and I shopped. Ray rode shotgun.


Here Comes The Bride’s Mother


The best thing about public transport, from the point of view of a writer, is that it puts you in close proximity to the public and gives you the opportunity to read The Guardian. I am a natural Guardian reader, and I heartily approve of the publication, but I only read it on trains. If it goes under or gets sold to Amazon, I only have myself to blame.

I couldn’t start writing earlier because I was listening, open-mouthed, to a woman whom, I would surmise, never reads the Guardian, as she recounted with peppery language and a lot of feeling, the break-up with her live- in.

“I told ‘im I’m off till he gets his (mild korma) act together, the (red-hot chilli peppering) idiot.”

I expect the frosty distancing of love-grown- old ( and past it’s use- by date) in a palace, has it’s fascination, but the full- bloodied…

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Saving The Planet

Actually, it’s not the planet that worries me. It will slough off this pesky monkey-species with a sigh of relief. It’s the survival of the monkey that has me exercised.

I have been following the Keystone Pipeline debate with off-hand interest. It’s a good dirty political fight : Green versus Black… For those who may wonder what on earth I’m talking about, let me explain. There is a filthy black sludge beneath Alberta, Canada, that can, with a lot of effort and added toxins, and a pipeline from Alberta to ports in the Southern USA, be turned into useable petroleum products and a significant profit for the stake-holders. Not against profit, don’t get me wrong, just for a planet my descendants can inhabit.

I listen to American Public Radio and I heard the most incredible interview with a body from the US State Department. This person is tasked with working out the carbon-cost of the Keystone Pipeline, because President Obama has pledged to veto it if it’s construction will lead to greater greenhouse emissions.

Well, he says, the pipeline will not lead to increased carbon in the atmosphere because the stuff will be dug up, processed and transported, anyway, so we may as well have a piece of the action. It’s the economy stupid. Look, he suggests, at what’s happening in the EU, Australia and Japan. When the economy takes a hit, the greening of energy supply goes by the board.

That’s a paraphrase, naturally, but is unanswerable. Add to this the madness of cracking and the race to exploit hydrocarbons from the melting Arctic, and there’s just the one outcome. We’re fucked.

Time to stop prophesying that the rain is coming. Time to build an ark. What’s the cost of gopher wood these days?