Wednesday, May 25, 2016


I've had one of those totally wonderful, life-affirming birthdays. One of those ones which just makes you feel like fuck yeah, I've got this.

The day before - Thursday last week - I snuck off from my mad work schedule to have a very lovely and sophisticated lunch out with my wonderful parents.
We had a magnificent 3 course meal, a glass of delicious wine, lots of silly chat and beamed pride and love at each other for a couple of hours. I'm so proud of them, for being such present parents always, prioritising us and family life for so many years while really finding fulfillment in their own lives too, and I think they're proud of me for many of those same things.

It's a good feeling to turn 41 in the company of both my parents, all of us so very pleased with each other.

It was a mad busy work week - I'm doing multiple jobs again (as you've probably gathered from my absence here). Not nearly as bat-shit crazy as earlier in the year, but different events and clients and priorities - juggling it all. Juggling it all well in fact.

It's a good feeling to turn 41 busy and productive, to feel the marked progress in my career from this time last year, and markedly from the year before that, to feel validated and appreciated and - dare I say it - a bit like a grown-up really.

But despite the work (or maybe because of) and despite a week of sick husband and daughter (or maybe totally because of), we threw one hell of a birthday party on Friday night!

Early that morning I popped to the flower farm not far from us and filled the house with flowers. I called ahead to hire a standing gas 'mushroom' heater for the evening. And then I worked and worked and worked.
At 14:30 I slammed shut my laptop and rushed to the shops. 3 stops, plus one to collect the heater, and by 16:00 I was home - my car full to bursting, my party taken care of.

Mums and kids from early on - the house full of running and shouting, the stoep full of laughing and goss - later the grown-ups started arriving and after a while most of the kids got dragged yawning home and the adults dug in deeper outside.
There was tomato soup and doughnut cake, bubbly and loads of gin. There was pizza and hysterical giggles and spangly tops and cheeses and home-brewed beer (not by me). There was friends of friends - unexpected party guests welcomed with wine and chicken pie. There was music - and dancing in my lounge with my besties and my daughters. Lemon meringue and shots and illicit cigarettes and fairy lights reflected on the lake.

It's a good feeling to turn 41 with the resources and the confidence (and by gum the venue) to throw myself an epic party, to have so many dearly valued friends come and share it with me, to feel so very loved.

My people know me well ...
It was a very lovely birthday and I'll say it again, because I never for a minute stop appreciating it, I'm a very lucky girl.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

oh april

You are predictable.

You are a month of transition and changing gears. A shape-shifter morphing from hot, still perfect summer days to gold-tinged awetumn, stabbing us in the ribs with some fierce winter storms, chilling us through with your sudden icy evenings.
You are a month of sunsets and rainbows.

You bring otters and owls and flamingos. You bring the stillest, stillest nights for us to hear when they're about.

You, recently, have brought my return to work after a month of rest/illess/disability.

You also bring plague.

Frieda's had her third lurgy in almost as many weeks. This one a radical 'flu thing - high fevers, night sweats. THANK GOD the child can read. The Prisoner of Azkhaban, Little House on the Prairie and Ramona Beezy have all been consumed in a feverish frenzy on the couch.
I can't imagine her dreams.
She's been floppy and docile and ever so sweet. I had to confess to a friend that it has been lovely to get a chance to baby my big girl a bit. There was some back chat this morning though so she's on the mend.

You are the start of waking in the dark, cardigans at 4 and slippers by 5 all day. I came downstairs in proper shoes yesterday and Frieda immediately asked if I was going to a meeting. Working from home is so louche.

The door to the stoep stays closed more and more. Letting pets in and out consumes vast quantities of time and bargaining chips.
I start longing for winter curtains, for 'drawing in' and all those fun-sounding Northern Hemisphere autumnal things.
I might make an apple crumble after I post this.

April does like to bake.

You are also the month which houses our greatest day. Our shining hour. Today, Freedom Day.
But this year I'm not really feeling it. This year Freedom Day feels a little tarnished, our country feels tired and sad.

Quick: puppy!

April has brought us one of our favourite things.

You're an interesting month, April. I'm ready for my birthday month now though!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Last month's full moon I saw from the plane, as we took off from Cape Town in the middle of job 5/5.
After two full (so, so full) days in the city the whole circus was moving to Joburg for the last day of our programme.

A few hours earlier we'd raced across town from our last meeting, I'd escorted the VIP's through check-in and security checks (the group split in two so as not to risk losing them all in case of air disaster, the Princess boarded despite the ambiguous diplomatic wording on her passport, the diplomat successfully checked through with his travelling pharmacy), phoned ahead to make sure the reception committee was standing by, checked that everyone else was where they should be, dismissed drivers, signed payment orders, found a safe place to leave my car. 
Now I was on my own flight, and never more excited to turn my phone off for 2 hours and be completely uncontactable for the first time in months.

Midsummer, the sun had already set as we took off and the peninsula was virtually in darkness, but as we banked and turned south, the mountain line below us showed a fiery orangey-red outline, like one continuous volcano rim circling the city. With the lights still off for take-off the whole inside of the plane reflected orange, everyone in silhouette and gasping in wonder.
Then we turned inland, away from the last of the sun and flew, as if directly, into a giant, full, heavy golden moon.

It was the most beautiful take-off of my life, a balm to my tired and distracted soul, a perfect reminder of the beauty in the world after two days of heavy meetings discussing all that is wrong with it.
It was a welcome moment of peace and stillness.

This month the full moon greeted us in transit again. Barreling through the Karoo at dusk, listening to dodgy trance music and hoping to get to our destination before full dark, we spied a light on the horizon, casting a rosy glow through the dust.
We rushed to meet each other, and she rode besides us for the rest of the way.

We'd spent 4 days camping with friends and dogs and canoes and a ridiculous amount of good food.
4 days of lazing and reading, starting conversations and fires and happily wiling away an afternoon tending them.
Camp life is the best life.

So when it was time to leave, and our friend mentioned she was pushing on to her cabin further up country for a few nights, it took us all of 15 minutes to decide to join her.
Why go home to the laundry when we could stay on holiday for a few days longer?
Spontaneity is almost a bigger luxury than free time these days so hell yeah, let's turn left instead of right at the end of the dirt road, let's chase the moon further into the backwaters, let's unwind just a little bit more.

It took a full lunar month to recover from 5/5, it really did. But I'm here, new moon, new me.

Big meeting for the next one today, plans afoot and ideas flowing. Rested, ready, recovered and grateful.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


The child who for nearly 2 years insisted she was a boy, wore pink to her 6th birthday party.

The child who every year until now has managed some epic meltdown on the morning of her big day (the most memorable being the time she locked us all out in the garden minutes before everyone was due to arrive), spent weeks colouring and cutting folded paper tigers for all her friends, and then handed them out with pride at her party.

6 has brought peace. In fact it's been here for a while.

A peaceful, content, busy and active little person.
She's settled into 'big school' with seamless ease - making new friends and producing beautiful works of art. She's learnt to whistle, but not yet, alas, to tune. She knows herself, does Stella, she knows how to claim space when she needs it, to stop eating sweets when she's risking discomfort, to sleep when she's tired.
She knows herself, her limits and her preferences, very well. And I think that's a pretty good place to be when you're 6.

Happy birthday little tiger.

Friday, March 04, 2016

clearing the decks

Can you imagine, after months of absence from the daily dailies, what total chaos lurks in corners of my home?

On the surface, we managed to maintain a clean and tidy home, but on the surfaces - the corner cupboard, the hall table, the shelves at the top of the stairs -  chaos reigned blissfully uncontested and unchallenged.

The propensity of small children to leave swathes of STUFF in their wake will never cease to amaze me, and my real struggle with throwing things away (not just because I am by nature a hoarder, but also because I hate to waste, and because I respect the value of things to individuals - one mum's pile of shit is so often also one child's definition of treasure - and because I'm a victim of nostalgia) will never die.
My love of the organised will never reconcile with my secret delight in chaos (this is why my clients, who see me as methodical and organised and detailed to a tee, must never see my desk), and my love of organising will never make peace with my equally adored inclination to lie on the couch with a book ignoring the squalor around me.
As a friend (an ex-friend truth be told) once said to me, 'I admire your ability to just let it all go.'
I'm still not sure how to take that.
I think it's the Taurus/Gemini cusp thing I've got going on: chaos/order/chaos/order/chaos/order.

This morning Taurus must have been rising (or Gemini had her nose in a book, ignoring the world) for the de-cluttering bug bit hard.

For hours I circled the house, small miscellaneous collections of oddities in my hands, slowly putting like with like, tit with tat, finding the right box/drawer/shelf, planning my routes according to the stuff in my hands. It became a meditation of sorts - a simple flow with clear goals and directions - a gentle and calming space.

Here is the tin for the wooden cakes, now where was that wooden cake I saw yesterday? This is LEGO, this is LEGO, this is LEGO, this is Playmobil, this is .... what the fuck is this? Oh, here is that screw which goes with that game, here is the piece of that puzzle, here is the magnet thingie which came off the other thingie - I wonder where the other thingie is? Here is Ken's scarf, here is a ballerina's shoe, here is the baby rhino which was cried for a couple of nights back. Here is the dog and the picnic basket from that set with the biker, oh here is the biker, now where is the bike? Here's a marble, here's another marble, here's another marble - oh, here is a 1 pound coin, that's no longer a toy!

After a while the task starts seeming insurmountable though, and the meditative trawling through piles of minutia starts grating.
A new approach: categories! Dress up props and soft toys ONLY, see past the rest and focus just on these.

A Cinderella shoe under the couch, a fake tattoo sleeve wadded up in a corner, a random clip-on earring, an ubiquitous toy leopard. Oh look! A wooden cake! Now where did I put that tin ....?

Camera in hand made my eyes see it differently, closing lids on plastic boxes of complete sets made it satisfying, discovering notes and drawings and tableau's by my sweet girls made it fun.
Having the time to nurture my home made it ever so sweet.

I could do with a few more mornings like that (as could our house!).

Thursday, March 03, 2016

somnambulist art therapy

I should be writing about 5/5. I need to write about 5/5 - to decompress and debrief and detach myself from it (I still wake after 5 hours, thinking my sleep allocation is up - although it's much easier to fall back asleep now than it was a few days ago. I still run lists in my head, I retain a persistent feeling that there's something I should be doing ...).

But instead I'll write about yesterday evening's ASTAR art workshop, and how it aided my decompression in a way I'd not realised I'd needed.

My friend Wendy qualified as an ASTAR facilitator last year, and I've been keen to join one of her workshops ever since. I signed up for this one as soon as 5/5 finished, champing to do something creative, something for me.

On the way there I thought back through Wendy's blog posts on her ASTAR process, and her recurring discovery that the 'message', the meaning of her exploratory pieces often only revealed itself after she'd completed her evening's work - and then how often it made uncanny sense in terms of things happening in her life, or thoughts. I was excited.

I was also tired.
I knew that ideally I shouldn't have planned an evening excursion so soon. I am acutely aware of not operating on full strength yet and am paranoid (possibly overly so) of the risk of repeating last year's burnout.

But I needn't have worried. It was so gentle, so quiet. The dappled studio light softly gave way to night as Wendy's calm voice guided us through a process, my fellow students worked determinedly on their own pieces, and the guy I shared a table with was just energetic enough (dropping pastels and jumping to his feet to deliver particularly broad strokes) to inspire me.
Fueled by creativity and normal tea, I had a wonderful time.

We covered a big blank page in words. Words which resonated, inspired, or had a particular relevance to us right now. We used crayons and inks, feathers and brushes, working the words over and over until our page was textured and wet.
We had tea and let it dry.
Then we stuck our pages up on a wall, stepped back, and looked for pictures.

Instantly I found faces. Faces and expressions, eyes and mouths - my whole page was full of them.

The next hour was spent detailing them, finding loops and circles from the mostly hidden words to turn into eyes and noses, mouths and brows.

Tired and depleted at the end of it all, we were given a blank page and asked to write down the thoughts we'd had while completing the work.
So many people the last few weeks - so many egos and personalities and needs and wants. So much at stake for so many and me in the middle managing them all, taking it all into account, balancing the wants and the needs with the cans and can'ts. Pushing myself to provide it all, standing fast on my boundaries of where I cannot. People's faces searching for me in the room to solve the problem or answer the query or provide the info. All the people, all the time, asking all the things - of me. 

It's not a thing of beauty, it won't adorn my walls. But it helped me process a major aspect of the last few months, more importantly it was fun, and most importantly, it was for me.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Can you tell I've been busy?
This is not the only space I've been absent from.

I've been missing from the couch in the afternoons after school for a story and a long unhurried chat. I've been missing from the playground watching tricks on the monkey bars and catching up with the school mums.
I've been missing from the rock pools and the beaches and the dams of our normal summer hangouts.
I've been missing from the warm evenings on balconies and front stoeps with girl friends and wine.
I've been missing from the bench in the breeze in my mum's garden.
I've been missing from the couch with two dogs and a cat and my husband and a series on Netflix.
I've been missing from my life.

Job 4/5 ended today.
3 days spent inside a hotel with 300 delegates and a packed agenda. Working in a group which included men with ritual scarification, and women with scars of a different kind but not any less visible. Catching up with old activist comrades and meeting new ones. Intersecting with an age, race and gender mix well out of my norm.
Learning again how good I am at what I do, and how much I enjoy it.
4/5 was a good one.

It's the next one which is scary.

The last month I've been working two jobs, both demanding and challenging and time-pressured and complex.
I've been working two jobs which required minimum 8h a day each, and wouldn't settle for very much less than that.

One of those jobs is done, but I doubt it will make the next any less frantic.

I will still be missing for a while. My husband, my kids, my friends, my life will still have to do without me for a bit.
But tonight I will sleep.
And tomorrow I will start again.
And by the end of this month I'll have done 5/5, and I'll be back.

Monday, January 18, 2016

january chill

The holidays are over, the girls are back at school - and for the first time ever at the same school! They just had 3 days last week, this one is 5 - 5 days of being woken much earlier than they're used to, of concentrating and socialising and managing the radical heat we're currently experiencing.
It's an adjustment for us all.

I started work on the 6th and our wonderful beloved Nonki (She's back! We're thrilled!) came in to look after them. I felt some parental guilt, and suggested some outings, some activities - some fun holiday excitement for the last week of their summer break.
But were they interested? Nope.

There were a couple of trips to my brother's pool, but other than that there were days, endless long summer days of pyjamas and pets and books and games and drawing and dragon cataloging and audio stories and forts and Lego and lawn tumbling and snack eating and just ... being.
Just, as this article which conveniently cropped up on Facebook at the same time said, '... learning to be whoever they are when no one is watching.'

Alone time, pottering away, whiling away hours in seemingly unproductive but totally absorbing pursuits - preferably in pyjamas - is how I relax, recharge and reset myself. The girls have the same inclination. I couldn't be happier.
And grateful that something which has sometimes made me feel like a bit of a lazy slob, is actually a sound parenting ideal. How easy was that one?!

Saturday, January 09, 2016

back to the beach

New Year's eve found us going back to the beach. This time with GEAR.

We used to sleep on beaches all the time in our youth. Beaches, cars in beach parking lots, back stoeps of unoccupied seaside holiday homes. All illegal.
Back then our supplies list comprised of a kikoi, a dooswyn, and diving gear. Food was caught and cooked right there on a driftwood and kelp fire - crayfish, perlemoen, allekrik, fish.

Not so any longer. The dogs and the kids were the only ones left with any energy by the time we got settled in.

Not another soul to be seen. Us, the oyster-catchers, the seagulls and one putrefying seal in the next cove. Luckily the wind stayed in our favour.

Coolers, coolers, coolers, food, chairs, wood, toys .... tables, watermelon (a watermelon!), pots and pans. Lotsa ice. Dog blankets and food. Lotsa water.
All illegal.

All totally worth it.

31 December is all about the sunset actually (or sunrise on the 1st I guess if you're a morning person). At the end of the last day, or the beginning of the 1st, one should be somewhere, or with someone, meaningful I reckon. Whatever with this hype about midnight.

Midnight found us though - deep in our cups, roaring with laughter on those wild screaming beaches. A bonfire raging, various delicious bits 'n pieces being passed around as they came off the fire. At The Moment we walked down to the surf, fireworks exploding from 3 separate villages in the distance, laser beams of phosphorescence running up and down the breaking surf as far as the eye could see.
We screamed and whooped and smooched and cheered. The dogs ran mad gambits and the sea crashed in the background. We felt alive.

Later, crouching for a wee further down the beach my feet sparkled with phosphor in the sand. Later still I crept into a warm tent, nestled up to two small sleeping bodies and marveled at how loud the ocean really was.
After a few short hours screeching gulls woke me at dawn, then an inquisitive dog nose and finally the enthusiastic sunrise of 2016. The nerdy younger sibling of NYE's cool host, all 'Hey guys, what you doing? Isn't this exciting?' I doubt he ever gets the reception he expects.

A swim in the sea. A beer. A pita bread of pulled lamb, slow roasted overnight on an outdoor fire.

A private beach in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
I can't think of a better way to start a year.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

babes in the wood {catch-up post}

Just before Christmas the girls and I got out of town for a few days with two of my girlfriends and their kiddies.

This is what girl camping looks like - cheese, crackers, fruit and bubbly!

Platbos is a small slice of Afro-montane forest a couple of hours drive out of town. Real forest mind you - old man's beard swathed about, fairy nooks, tendrils of mist and gnarled faces in the trees. A cool and quiet place in which to rapidly gear down from the madness of the last few months.
Very peaceful.
Until we lost Stella and her little friend.
For 25 minutes we walked and called through the woods - Frieda's face tight with consternation that she'd let her sister out of her sight, me modelling a courage and calm that came only from the necessity of being the Grown Up.
I honestly didn't think any harm would come to them (actively ignoring the many signs about wild bee colonies), but I knew that the longer they were alone the more upset they'd be getting. Poor wee things.

This little forest - so peaceful, evocative of picnics and fairies and mythical sprites, quite quickly became a darker place - the quiet suddenly seeming a little menacing, our calls of 'Stellllaaaaa' quickly absorbed by the dense undergrowth. Thoughts of bears and witches, every mysterious story ever heard of children disappearing in the wilderness ... amazing how this material rests in our subconscious, just waiting to be awoken.

And then we heard from camp, faintly on the breeze ... 'Found them' ... and there they were, tear-stained and wide-eyed, drinking hot chocolate and trying to find their smiles. Stella rushed to me and clung on, waiting 'til I walked away from the group before letting out a sob.

The recovery was swift, and soon they were out exploring again - staying well close to Frieda this time (the big sister who can read signboards).
I think they'll remember this always though, as I remember similar moments from my childhood - being alone, out of sight, facing adversity, and realising ... there won't always be a parent about.

Baby steps, little wings, safe adventures, nurturing instinct, listening to one's heart, examining one's environment - these are the crucial lessons of childhood. And parenting!