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.