Sunday, December 30, 2018

bye bye 2018

We're packing for our 3rd trip of the holidays - back to our friends in Onrus for the 3rd time. We've done a crazy dance of back and forth for Christmas and cat-checking-in and playdates for the girls and catch up time for us.
It's such a soft landing there, and so worth it for the chill factor, but it has been a bit of a whirlwind of laundry and packing and unpacking and repacking.

I couldn't leave this space hanging from September though, and had to squeeze in a quick post to say bye bye 2018, let's not see your kind around here again please.

It's hard to dismiss a whole year as total shit, because I'm deeply privileged in my life and family and work, but this one was hard, really hard.

The sting at the loss of my friend has not eased. The void is as gaping as it was, the physical shock when it hits me again that she's really gone is as winding, as hollow. But the profundity of the gifts she gave has grown. In life, in sickness, and in her dying she bestowed so much, left so much of herself behind to think on, learn from and develop further as I age.
I wish I could thank her one more time.

All the other losses have piled up too - my mother-in-law not least among them. This time of year is hard, Christmas was different, the little Ouma-shaped hole in our lives yawns deeply.

So many I love have had it so hard this year, so much loss. I was right to be cautious.

But, we look ahead - because what choice do we have, because where else do we go and because this is our one wild and precious life, and we must live it. Through pain, through sorrow, we must live and live and LIVE.
We owe it to those who no longer have that privilege, and we owe it to ourselves.

See you next year blog, thanks for waiting patiently here always.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

lost in soweto

Oh wait, before that I got lost in Nyanga.
Well, my Uber driver swore he was not lost but the multi-car pile-up in the middle of a 4-way intersection rapidly filling up with buses, kids, goats and pedestrians peeling out of cars to take their chances on foot felt a lot like lost.
Nyanga is the 'murder capital' of South Africa. My Uber driver kept asking me if I was okay and when I promised him I was (I really was, everyone in the situation - except maybe the goats - were intent on only one thing, getting out of the situation, and nothing felt threatening at all), he chuckled and said if he had tourists in the car they'd be crying by now ha ha.
I made him promise to never get into that situation with tourists, even if it was (usually) the quickest route to the airport.

I got to the airport in time for my pre-Joburg oh-seven-hundred manicure and got to Joburg in time to pick up my hired car and set off for Soweto. My little Renault Kwid (Quip?) had sat nav and a nice jolly English man periodically told me what to do.
Joburg freeways have only two speeds: crawling suicidal depression speed, and terrifying homicidal death wish. I alternated between the two.

Everything was going fine, my exit coming up on the left, when Jolly English Sat Nav man instructed me to stay going straight. 5km later I decided he was talking bollocks and while attempting to change direction via complex spaghetti junctions I loaded Google Maps with Laconic American Lady to see what her opinion was.
She and English man argued for a while - Him: You have gone off course, turn back now. Her: Continue straight - until I managed to turn his volume down, and Laconic American Lady boldly directed me straight into the heart of Soweto and a blocked off, non-existent road.

Soweto is massive, like a city on its own, but not the kind of place you dither around in looking lost. Staying cool, I followed a line of other cars diverting around the blocked off road. I followed those cars down a dirt track, through the heart of a very poor settlement, round a bend, through a field, over an embankment, a ramp over the pavement and viola! arrived at my destination.

Thank goodness Soweto is fairly flat, and from a distance I could see the iconic Orlando Towers - an old coal-fired power station - the University of Joburg campus I was headed to was just nearby...

Later that day my Kwid wouldn't start ... no idea why not ... but I got a new car delivered (sans hubcaps when they realised I was staying in Soweto ha ha) and made my way with Laconic American Lady to the Soweto Hotel.
Again she took me off course (in her defense she took me to the pin, which was off course) and this time, with the light fading and the exertions of the day taking their toll, I wasn't feeling nearly as adventurous and brave. And instead resigned myself to driving around in circles swearing outrageously at her, Google Maps, the architects of apartheid, the necessity of work, being self-employed, night time, the universe in general, hired cars and just fucking everything. Until I stumbled upon the hotel quite by accident - a massive concrete block on Walter Sisulu Square - and stood for a moment enjoying the light from my balcony and marveling at the wonder of this country of ours.

It's a pretty weird and wonderful place when you're able to stay still long enough to absorb it.

Monday, September 10, 2018

camera roll: August


Crayfish curry - a taste of summer in the depths of winter.

Always with the rainbows.

Sunny, but icy cold.

My other kind of therapy. 

Crazy eyes found on my phone.

Hidden Cape Town spaces.

Weird Cape Town spaces.

A little bit of nature I left in the bustle of OR Tambo International Airport.
This made me happy.

Sunday, August 12, 2018


number the one:

drinking with friends

Lordy, I been drinking. That's probably not okay right?
But you know (cue classic heavy drinker excuse), I'm working two jobs, running a household, propping up a super-stressed husband, dealing with shit - and I haven't dropped any of those balls have I? I'm fiiiine.
Except I know really I'm not. And that wine, for the all the blissful temporary distraction it provides, is not the answer.
I'm a grown up. I'll temper my ways. But damn, it feels good to just let go for a bit.

number the two:


Well, trying to. Friends and I went out for a big lesson one perfect Sunday. Winter is the best time for waves on our local beach, without the relentless South East wind which plagues us in summer.
We learnt how to paddle out, pop-up, stay up (ha) and had a lot of fun trying to do all of those. Muizenberg must be the most democratic wave in the country - everyone is out there, and everyone makes space.
We've been out a couple more times. Okay fine, I've been out ONCE more, but I'm hoping soon to find more time for it.
Water is better therapy than wine.

number the three:

Therapy for real. I'm starting to see someone next week. It was supposed to be last week but I had to postpone due to a last-minute trip to Joburg. As my friend more experienced in therapy than I said, you can bet she's made a note of that in your file.
Oof. Drinking wine and surfing is going to be way easier than this.

camera roll: July

For July I'm posting landscapes.

Beautiful big images which open the eyes and the mind. Which don't speak of the frustrations of trying to juggle school holidays and work - parental guilt like I've never before really experienced - feeling awful for being so distracted, feeling cross for feeling awful. 

A pedalo ride of a still, sunny afternoon by myself. A chance to get a different perspective. To collect rubbish floating in the water and feel like making a contribution to something other than just my and my family's own, persistent, needs.

A birthday hike to celebrate my man, their dad, our huge privilege for all being together - essentially healthy and well. To stretch our legs and our horizons. To walk off all that chocolate cake and enjoy each other's company.

A stormy day on the harbour wall. Big gulps of sea air and good friendship.

Big pictures for the most important big things - family, friends, beauty and privilege. I try to cling to these, even as the lesser things feel like they're dragging me under. I wish my head was as clear as these views.
We'll get there.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

cake and life

For his first birthday without her, I made him a cake like his mama would've made it.

Sjokolade-oilie-koek. In Afrikaans it rolls off the tongue, in any language it slips happily into your belly.
The recipe is written in pencil, on an old discoloured page, in her distinctive hand.
The sugar came from a massive vat of it we discovered in her cupboard when we were packing up her flat. 'How long do you think this has been here?' I asked him, and when we got home we found slip of paper buried in the white crystals 04.01.2018. Why would she have dated it we wondered?
The vanilla also from her tiny pantry, a mere fraction of the kind of supply cupboard she would've kept for most of her life.
The cake tins, well-scrubbed, a bit battered, tins which must've baked 1000 cakes. No, really.

I messaged him while baking it.
Cherries? Caramel filling? Instant coffee in the icing?
I wanted to make it just right. After all these years there are still things I don't know about him.

His response: No chuckles, no sprinkles, no dips, no cherries, no candles. No coffee, no caramel. Just icing. Maybe the thinnest smear of apricot jam. Maybe some choc shavings.

I hope when he bit into it he thought of her. I hope I made it right but not so right that he wouldn't feel nostalgic for hers. I hope that I did it justice, but I'm sure he felt that missing ingredient.

Life isn't great right now. We are feeling our losses and struggling along with our burdens of stress and general boring adulthood.
But we are struggling along together, which is the important thing, we are being gentle and kind and helping each other out where we can.

And today we ate cake, and climbed a mountain, and celebrated life. Because we have it, and it's beautiful, even when it's hard.
And there's also gin!

Monday, July 02, 2018

camera roll: June

June. Top and tailed by the sea.

June started with a job I was doing - hosting a group of Czech Roma activists in Cape Town, visiting with local civil society organisations to swap notes and strategies, exchange stories on how they fight for the rights of marginalised communities. Jeez, the Roma have it bad in the Czech Republic. Quite terrifying.

It was such an interesting gig for me. I work with the local organisations often, but almost always with them coming to events I'm organising - seldom have I visited them, and the sites of their work. It was educational, and stimulating to be reminded of all the amazing work happening here.

There was time on the schedule for a bit of social justice tourism and we took the group out to Robben Island. A beautifully warm (and thank god, still, day) for the 45min ferry ride out and tour of the island. I'd never done the official tour before and it was part-educational (we had an amazing guide for the bus part) and part ... I don't know, American? Too touristy, packaged, clinical.
Still astounding to be there though, and even in the bright winter sun the dread of those cold walls could be felt. 
History is important.

Another inspiring site of social activism we visited that week was this old provincial hospital - long abandoned - now occupied by lower-income families protesting the gentrification and urbanisation of inner city suburbs. Pushed out of their homes by rising rates and slumlords selling off to urban developers, this group have started their own community here - with strict house rules and infrastructure. Families living in old operating theatres ... very surreal and yet their everyday reality.
A story of hope in many ways, but as I type this with icy toes in the comfort of my home I wonder about them today, as the weather has turned seriously chilly.

My parents took me out for our now traditional but until-now postponed due to death and diversion birthday lunch - to Jonkershuis.
Bastion of white monopoly capital but shew, what lovely buildings and grounds. And what a delicious lunch. And what wonderful parents I have.

It was weird to experience so many of Cape Town's different faces and histories within a week of each other.

Proper winter now, and the aloes are blooming beautiful.
Rain, rain, rain - it's been bucketing down. Today it was announced that we've already surpassed 2015's entire winter rainfall reading (from April to September), and it's only just July!
Very good news for our drought-stricken part of the world.

On the subject of good news ... this lady is still doing really well. Fat and sleek on her new prescription diet (and no, I don't resent the extra cost for a second - I'll pay dearly to keep her here for as long as possible). 
Traditionally crotchety AF and only tolerant of a select handful of people in the world, there was a funny moment during Frieda's party when one of her friends brought Khoki downstairs in her arms.
'I found your kitty,' she said, 'she wants to join the party.'
Oh no she bloody did not! The look of outrage and disbelief on Khoki's face was a scream :-)

And then a little dash out of town this past, last, weekend of June.
A grayer sea (actually, truthfully, big lagoon), than the beginning of the month, squalls of rain and a very fresh, chilly breeze, but a beautiful retreat none-the-less.
Flamingos, family, steaks on the braai, a snuggly night sharing a big bed with my big girl, a rainy drive and the refreshment - body and spirit - of a little change of scenery.

It is beautiful here.

Thursday, June 28, 2018


I am enraptured by this kid.

This is not news. I've been enraptured by her since the day she arrived and made me a mama.

But she really just keeps on astounding me, as she grows and develops and changes and yet stays so very grounded and herself.
Frieda just turned 11, but in other ways she's still 8, but also 15, but also 22.

She wanted a phone for her birthday, but also a flower crown with skeleton hands for her self-conceptualised Day of the Dead party. She got both (all hail the glue gun!).

She wanted to serve tacos to her friends and have a dance party and have a bunch of girls sleep over.
We made it happen.

She wanted the cake to still be a surprise, as it always has been since the very first birthday.

And the next day - our house in tatters, every surface sticky and every eyeball grainy - I looked at this photo and felt so grateful for this shiny, radiant being. 
I have moments of sheer terror at this next phase of parenting, but then I remember that I'll be doing it with her - all my parenting firsts have been with her, and I think we got this. I think we'll be okay.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

camera roll: May

Lol, these camera rolls get later and later each month ...

I started May with a day trip to Joburg. My first for the year - quite something after my bazillion trips up there last year.

It was nice to be back in the Big Smoke. A quick productive day of business and straight back home.
I was on a recce trip for a job which was due to happen there this week - but a few days after the trip it was postponed to August! Already my notes from this trip seem as hazy as this skyline ... eek.

It was my birthday - did I mention that? And what with going away and then losing my MIL and generally blah-ness it all become very disjointed and bitty - which was kinda crap but kinda great in that I kept being surprised by it - like this unexpected beauty gifted to me from the boot of a car at a kiddies party one week day afternoon ...

... I have always wanted this (can you tell by my face?) - telephone wire coat rack by Heath Nash. I have literally lusted after it for years. And dear friends remembered and said to each other 'Zahida was always really good at presents, we need to hit this one out the park' and bandied together, and DID.
The ribbon on a gift like this, is the knowledge that you are known, that your people get you.
And that was what I really needed this birthday.
That, and a telephone wire coat rack by Heath Nash!
That, and the reminder that regardless of everything - it is beautiful here.

But the hero story for May - the most wonderful (and oh thank god happy ending one) was this:

In the same week that my MIL died, this little old lady pulled a number on us too. Stopped eating, drinking - didn't leave my bed for 2 days. We were ... distracted, I'm ashamed to admit, so much else going on, and by the time we got her to the vet I was lambasting myself for being a bad mummy but when he got her out the carrier he was genuinely surprised that she looked so 'fantastic' for a kitty her age, and I felt hopeful. Khoki is 19 this year, but still soft as a kitten, strong and feisty.
She over-nighted at the vet, on a drip, the same night my MIL passed and I lay awake fretting - for Husband to lose his mum and his beloved cat in the same week seemed too cruel for words.
But she made it!
It's first stage kidney disease, it will take her eventually, but for now she's back - demanding and cranky as ever - and every night when she snuggles down between us (having yowled at us since dusk to come to bed) , I offer up the closest thing I have to a prayer - a message of gratitude to the universe - to her - thank you for staying with us a little longer. For all my concern for Husband, I don't think I could bear this loss too right now.

And then autumn, waning in all its beauty ... my mum bought this little broom and wheelbarrow for my little nephew to sweep the vine leaves on her stoep - but Stella clearly decided she's by no means too big for that herself yet ... segued into winter ...

... and the cubble got real :-)

Friday, June 15, 2018


That birthday post was very delayed.

We came home that Sunday evening in a (very clean) glow of love and family to the news that my dear mother-in-law had gone into hospital.
Four evenings later on the 24th of May she quietly slipped away.

It's the way we'd all like to go I think - fit as a fiddle until 85, then a quick decline and a relatively comfortable passing - it was the right way, although there is never a right time, especially not for those left behind.

The numb feeling of loss is horribly familiar.

For my dear Charl especially - losing his mum so soon after his brother last year. Becoming an orphan. Feeling the family become smaller, more disjointed. His closest brother, and now his mum.

The following weekend we had a farewell tea for her at the retirement village she's been living at for the last 18 years or so, for the family but also for her friends.
As a recently bereft friend my heart ached for this sweet group of little old ladies. Walking frames, sensible shoes, stout winter coats smelling faintly of mothballs - they embraced us all and told us what a wonderful woman she was, a 'proper lady', and how much they'd miss her.
We will too.

Cake, tea, all her family and a slideshow of photos spanning 80+ years - she would have enjoyed it all so much.

I love this picture of her and Charl's Dad, who I never met. The dress and the 5th Avenue Cold Dark imply it was Christmas, or a party of some sort. The dessert in his hand ubiquitous, the giggle and squeeze so very sweet. The safari suit!

She was always an older granny for our girls, but she loved them dearly and they were so fond of Ouma.
The last time we saw her, on Mother's Day a few weeks before she passed, we lined her and Frieda up back to back - and had a laugh that Frieda had overtaken her. We teased her as to how she'd created this family of giants. 
She was a little lady, but with a big heart, and she gave us our husband and dad - and for that we will always honour her.