Shap Shap Shanana

cape town pic

I love Cape Town this time of year. Spend enough Decembers and Januaries in the soggy greyness of Europe and you’ll stop moaning about the south-easter and the Vaalies (well, maybe not the Vaalies) and feel a deep, abiding gratitude for the fact that when the table cloth stops tumbling over the mountain and a still and clear blue morning awakens, get there early and you have the whole beach to yourself. And as you wade into the water it dawns on you that the summer is yours, all yours. In fact, the whole place is. Cape Town is the kind of city you own if you’re a local. I used to walk around the icy streets of Malmö, already dark at 3:30pm, dreaming of Clifton 4th. I knew what was going on there: that the sun was not even close to setting yet. That people were navigating the cold, clean waves on SUPs. That a granadilla lolly would, indeed, make you jolly.

And as the sunbathing crowd marches up the steps to wherever it is they came from, the picnic crowd would be marching down with white wine and blankets and things from Giovannis. And the knowledge that all this was happening on the other side of the planet while I pushed a double baby pram through slush was almost more than I could bear. And I’ll never take it for granted again: the girl crossing Buitengracht street yesterday in a strappy sundress and converse high tops, holding her skirt so it didn’t blow up around her head. She was just so Cape Town. The guy in the airport parking lot a few mornings ago who, to pass the time while he waited for his load of tourists, had opened all the doors, put his favourite song on loud and was dancing like nobody was watching. The bergies on High Level road wearing Christmas hats with flashing lights. iKapa.

It’s too hot inside the restaurants so patrons spill outside into courtyards festooned with fairy lights. Summer nights black as ink, balmy, alcohol-steeped, humming with the energy of the season. Midnight in a swimming pool underneath a blanket of stars. Carols by candlelight. Sunrise walks up the mountain. A friend recently arrived, coming home from Australia where he tried to emigrate but nearly died of dismay. He calls it ‘a dusty rock where souls go to die.’ Sometimes I sit on a bench at the Waterfront and watch the tourists go by. It’s easy to tell who is who. Nobody on the planet is as pasty as the Brits. Nobody wears uglier shoes than the Germans, and even though the Swedes have only been here for half an hour, they’ve already managed to turn themselves a deep shade of mahogany. But, come! Come! Spend your Kronor and your Euros. Heaven knows we locals can’t afford the seafood platter.

The thing is, you’d be hard-pressed to find worse whiners than we Saffers. Here we are actually living in the city the whole world rushes to in the summer and we still find things to complain about. Cape Town – like the whole of the country – is not without its problems. But actually it’s pretty amazing, as places go. And, as I’ve said many times in the past, sometimes I wonder if it really needs to be ‘fixed’. Like life, South Africa is messy, unpredictable and full of contradictions. Some days you’ll be frustrated, others you’ll be delighted. It’s the human experience presented in sharp technicolour. It’s like all the bad and all the good you can ever imagine has been crammed into this one little corner of the globe. Pour yourself a rooibos gin and enjoy the ride.

This year, despite the drought, hotels have been fully booked since July. Restaurants are crowded, main roads crawling. I know some folks get grumpy about actually having to plan in advance and make dinner reservations (the horror!) but I love it – the bustle, the vibe, the money pouring in which keeps the machine oiled and the wheels turning. And there’s a reason why everyone on the planet wants to be here. This city really does have everything. Last week a friend made an appointment over the phone. As they settled the details and she was about to hang up, the person she was talking to clinched the deal with, ‘shap shap, shanana.’ She was so amused she told me about it on Whatsapp. We both posted ‘laugh-till-you-cry faces. ‘You should write a blog about that,’ she suggested. So, here it is.

Happy 2018 to all my readers. Thank you for engaging with my ramblings over the past year. The past 12 months were a tough journey for many of us, but I think 2018 is going to be shap shap shanana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

On Finding Your True North

shootingstar

Too hot to sleep, I got up in the middle of the night last night and went outside to try and cool down. The stars were unusually bright for where I live in the city, and as I drank in the gentle breeze and the familiar, comforting presence of Orion’s Belt and the Southern Cross I thought of a question my daughter had asked me a few days back. She said, ‘Mommy, if you’re lost somewhere can the stars guide you home?’ I replied, ‘yes, they can. Wherever you are in the world, if you look up at the sky the stars can point you to true north.’

And it’s a beautiful thought. I was also worrying that the #PennySparrow thing was going to slip through the cracks of our broken society, and in my head I was composing my letter to Jawitz. I needn’t have worried, nor underestimated the power of social media. At 5:45am I awoke to a storm of outrage, and the conversation that started a while back in response to racism in restaurants had been picked up again and was in full swing.

Reading the comments and tweets and contributing a few of my own I started to think about the fact that when you live in South Africa you are not allowed the luxury of political neutrality. Whatever you say and do comprises a statement. And the complicity inherent in saying and doing nothing when you were born white makes the loudest statement of all. Many people don’t like what I have to say, but they are strangers and their opinions don’t bother me overmuch.

But towards the end of 2015 I lost a friend over my political views and that hurt a lot. I spent many hours thinking about what had happened. I think that for her I posed a problem; created a kind of cognitive dissonance: she liked me personally, but she hated my politics. Her solution, in the email she sent me, was to continue our friendship on the proviso that we ‘agree to disagree.’ Presumably, that we pretend my blog doesn’t exist and she would try to distance  the ‘me’ she liked from my thoughts and opinions.

In a way the whole thing turned out to be a bit of a gift because it forced me to think about what this blog actually means to me and the role it plays in my life. Can I be separate from it? Are my views and I different things? Can I be something other than what I think and write about? And the booming answer was ‘no.’ While I am irreverent sometimes, what I write in this space is the truest essence of who I am in this world. I don’t do this for money or fame or attention; I do it because I am compelled to. For me, there are few things that matter more than figuring out my truth and putting it into words. I guess, in a way, this blog is my ‘true north.’ The thing I am in my soul and what I was put on this planet to do.

One of the reasons I love being 40 and not 20 is because I fit myself so much better. Of course I still want to be liked, but I don’t worry as much that what I am is ‘wrong.’ Anyone who asks me to tone myself down and be less of who I am doesn’t belong on my journey, and neither should do they be on yours. I would like to thank all of you, my engaged, warm, supportive and amazingly loyal readers for walking this road with me. What I wish for myself and all of you in 2016 is that we become less compromising about locating and following our own personal ‘true north.’ Sometimes it’s about being still for a moment and gazing up at the night sky and thinking about the direction we’ve been traveling in and whether it’s really where we want to go. And if it’s not, perhaps considering the possibility of changing course. Happy new year to all of you. Here’s to finding our way home.

On Not Getting the Memo

My cute new diary - see, I'm not making this stuff up.
My cute new diary – see, I’m not making this stuff up (I can’t make it be upright).

So, I’ve reached a very troubling realisation in the first week of the new school term, and I plan to take it up with the relevant authorities immediately and right away. What I have realised is this: it is not because I am trying to get past level 13 on Candy Crush (I will get those fucking cherries to the bottom, fuck them) or spending several hours finding the most flattering filter for my new fabulous-on-holiday profile pic (Amaro wins again) that I’m the only Grade One mom in the universe who didn’t get the memo about going to the school the day before to hang a small, fabric bag on the back of my child’s chair and making sure it contains the relevant (marked) stationary. No. It is because there is a conspiracy going on between the teachers and the parents to not give me any info, ever, and it’s really rude to say the least because I’m deurmekaar and stressed out at the best of times.

But I’m onto them now. While it might look like the other parents are just giving each other happy-new-year-how-was-Plett hugs, I know what’s actually going on – they’re like ants. You know how ants put their heads together for a millisecond and then go their separate ways and it looks like they just didn’t see the other one coming but actually they’re exchanging Very Important Information? This is what these wily parents are doing. They’re telling each other things about tackie bags and meetings in code, like aliens, leaving me to be the only doos who doesn’t show up and whose child (in accordance with the new School Tackie Law) isn’t allowed on the jungle gym at break because she doesn’t have the requisite footwear. It’s just not cool, man, being secretive alien ants and leaving me out of the loop. This shit’s got to stop.

But seriously, I’m aiming to be better at knowing what’s going on this year, and to that end I went to CNA yesterday and bought a diary with real pages and a bunch of pens too because I’m over signing homework with a blunt purple crayon which is regularly the only writing instrument this writer can find in her house. And yesterday I sat down with one of those pens and wrote down all the important things I could think of, like my children’s birthdays, and that made me feel reassured because the calendar thing on my iPhone actually just doesn’t work for me. Why must I tell it to alert me? Surely the fact that I’m punching in dates in the first place is testimony to the fact that I won’t remember to remind my phone to alert me? Fuck’s sake. Hence, too many missed things in 2013 than I care to think about.

But, thanks to my nice new diary, this will be the year that I don’t RSVP to parties only to be accosted very early on a Monday morning by an indignant 6-year-old wanting to know why we didn’t show up. This will be the year of not driving hell for leather to the Spar at 7:52am to buy stale cupcakes in primary colours for the 10am cake sale. No – this year I will be like those other, together moms who get up 20 minutes earlier and put Pick n Pay cheese puffs in the oven, and I’m going to serve them on a tray with little bits of shredded lettuce and everything, just watch me. I’m going to show up at meetings on time, and not – like last year – just as all the other parents are filing out of the hall clutching 17 pieces of paper that contain top secret school information which I’ll never be privy to and they’ll take with them to the grave. And I will definitely not forget to fetch my child from aftercare because I had meningitis from drinking Sauvignon Blanc the night before and needed to take a small nap.

2014 is going to herald a whole new me, and I’m excited about these changes. I will be on top of things. I will be that mother other mothers phone when they’re not sure what time ballet is. The one they look towards for guidance when Waltons didn’t deliver the retractable crayons and they’re confused about swimming cap policy. With my diary and a pen in my handbag, I’m appointing myself the new go-to parent, and I’m seriously going to rock. You’ll see. Happy new year, everyone :-)