Our family Christmas present to ourselves this year was a game of Jenga. As evidenced by this photo, it’s probably best to pick up all the blocks as soon as they fall, especially if the Monster Baby is skulking around under the table at the time.
Wednesday, 29 December 2010
In January 2008, following a lengthy email correspondence, bestselling Aussie author Tony Park and his wife Mrs Blog came to Riebeek Kasteel and we partied all night. A week ago they visited again – but this time ‘just for lunch’ because they had things to do and people to see in the city the next day, and Mrs Blog still remembers the difficulty with which they had to negotiate real life the day after our last get-together.
We had a sensible lunch (thanks, Tony!) at Auntie Pasti, and we kept our wine drinking to a minimum because the Parks had to deal with red tape the next morning and everyone knows such things can’t be done on a hangover. So I can’t really remember when or how things deteriorated, but, well, they did. It wasn’t helpful that I hadn’t prepared anything for dinner but that we nonetheless partied on for many, many hours, fuelled only by what we’d eaten at lunchtime, plus a large helping of the giant lemon-meringue pie Chris had brought a few days previously. (And which is still feeding much of the neighbourhood – thanks, Chris!)
During the course of a long and winding night, I did learn that Tony doesn’t only write fabulously – he also plays various kinds of guitar, including air-guitar (below left) and person-guitar (below right).
It’s probably just as well we get together only every three years.
Global Positioning Systems are space-based navigation gadgets that provide reliable location information, including verbal instructions on how to get from A to B. But, like all computers, they are only as strong as their weakest link – often a human.
So if you’re my friend Ruth (a gadget freak of note), and you’re coming from Robertson to Riebeek Kasteel for lunch, you don’t just glance at an AA map and realise that it’s a fairly direct route through Worcester and Tulbagh. That would be far too easy. Instead, you key the exact street address into your GPS, then you pile your family into the car and drive for an hour, following the verbal prompts, until the voice tells you you’ve arrived, and you look around in some surprise, because although you’ve visited the house several times before, the place you’re parked outside isn’t ringing any bells. None at all. And then you realise that although you are indeed at the right street address, you’re not in the right town. You are, in fact, in De Doorns, a good hour up the highway in the opposite direction.
But Ruth and her family arrived eventually, and we had a reunion of sorts – Chris (back left), Bruce (back right), Ruth (in blue) and I (in pink) used to jol together in Cape Town back in the day – over 20 years ago! – before Chris and Ruth emigrated (separately) to the UK, Bruce semigrated to Durban and I moved temporarily to Botswana. That’s the ‘now’ pic. The ‘then’ pics (below) were taken on one of the last occasions we were all together in one place at the same time – my wedding in 1988 (Chris, Bruce and I, and Ruth).
Sunday, 12 December 2010
It’s amazing what you can squeeze into 48 hours if you’re motivated enough. And this weekend, on a trip to Johannesburg for a cousin’s wedding, my sister and I were moved to compress an astonishing amount into the few hours available to us on either side of the nuptial celebrations.
First stop, the dentist
My sister bought a packet of chips on the Kulula flight from Cape Town to Joburg, and somehow managed to swallow half a tooth along with them. So when we landed at Lanseria, our first call was to my friend M to find out if she knew of a dentist who’d be prepared, late on a Friday afternoon, to fit a temporary filling. She didn’t, but she phoned around and found one.
It was a ‘holistic’ dentistry practice (a term we’re still puzzling over), and the dentist, who came to meet us in the waiting room, was chatty enough to compel me to point in a bossy way at my imaginary wrist-watch. (She also intimated that she wasn’t above drugging her patients and then stealing their money, which made me a little uneasy; but my sister managed to leave her credit card behind by mistake, and the receptionist ran after the car when we were leaving to return it, so I must assume she was joking.)
Landing at Lanseria
I have fond memories of this little ‘international’ (ag, sweet) airport. Many years ago I lived in Botswana, and it was from this airport that I’d fly to and from Maun.
Once, after a heavy night of too much red wine and just the right amount of jollity, and then about six cups of tea the next morning to try to wash the alcohol out of my bloodstream, I neglected to go to the loo before taking to the skies from Lanseria for the two-hour flight in a 10-seater with – fortunately, as it turned out – only the young pilot for company. About an hour out, I couldn’t hold it any more, and was reduced to crouching in the back of the plane and peeing into a sick bag (small planes don’t have toilets). The pilot found this so terribly amusing that he radioed ahead to the swamps to describe the event in fairly intricate detail. So forever afterwards I was known as The Girl Who Peed In The Sickbag. Not nearly as fabulous as She Who Runs With Wolves, for instance.
Anyway, Lanseria is really just a little country airport, rather chaotic, especially when the comparatively larger Kulula flights arrive and several hundred people mill ill-temperedly all over the place, dragging their pull-along luggage over people’s toes, but what sets it apart (and always has) is that it has an outdoor viewing deck, from where you can watch planes land and take off, and there’s little as eye- (and ear-) popping as seeing an aeroplane leave the ground and soar into the air just a few hundred metres away. It’s just miraculous.
Driving the sewing machine
When we went to the hire-car lot, we were happy to see that we’d lucked out with a 1600 Toyota Corolla, but then puzzled when we couldn’t get the key into the ignition. And that was because we were in the wrong car. The right car turned out to be an 1100 Hyundai Atos, a vehicle that at top speed (about 80kph) sounds like a Singer sewing machine, and which throws a hissy fit if you’re presumptuous enough to employ the aircon while the motor is running. And if you’re going up a hill at the time, the sudden loss of power is potentially fatal in Joburg rush-hour traffic, and induces hysteria in the occupants.
Meeting up with M
My friend M and I have been soul sisters since the first day of Grade 1 – we’ve been best friends for 40 years. I’m not going to tell you where she lives because you may take advantage of the information, but here’s a thing: in a Johannesburg suburb that bristles with electrified fences, huge steel gates, intercoms, burglar bars, burglar alarms, garden beams, vicious dogs, night watchmen and the like, not only does she and her family of husband and three boys (aged 5 to 13) live an ordinary life without ‘benefit’ of any of these things, but their front door lock has been broken for years – their house doesn’t lock. In over a decade of living this way in the crime capital of South Africa, they have never had a break-in or experienced a violent crime of any kind. My sister and I decided that their abundant (and it is abundant) good energy protects them. [This pic: My friend M (on the left) and me (on the right) with my travelling-companion sister (at top) and my youngest sister (at bottom) in 1974 - M and I were 10 years old.]
And that’s not all. Their garden is a veritable Jurassic Park of giant cycads, mature trees, rock gardens, and enticing little copses and coves. And through this mini-paradise hop two bunnies (who are on ridiculously friendly terms with the resident cat and all his friends), and three chickens peck about peacefully, the two fine-looking roosters stopping only to crow their little hearts out from time to time – a surprisingly comforting sound for a country girl to hear in built-up suburban Jozi. [This pic: My friend M (on the left) and me (on the right) today - M and I are 46 years old.]
It was a good place to make our base.
Off to the wedding
M had put on a handsome feast for us on Friday night, so on Saturday morning, the day of the wedding, my sister and I decided to give her a break, and take off early and find somewhere to have breakfast.
Which we would have done if we hadn’t got hopelessly lost in the wilds of Pretoria. (And all I’m saying here is that it wasn’t the navigator’s fault.) We took over two hours to complete the 40-minute trip to the venue, and it was a journey punctuated by frequent stops to ask for directions and buy takeaway food. And, of course, snipe at each other. Thank god the Voortrekkers were responsible for conquering the hinterland, because had it been left up to two women of English extraction, they’d still be dithering somewhere around Colesberg, wondering where north was.
It was breathtakingly beautiful. The bride and groom were handsome and radiant, respectively; the ceremony was held outdoors, ditto the reception – on blankets in a gorgeous garden; and the yummy food was provided in picnic baskets. The weather behaved beautifully (some attributed this to the direct line the groom has to Jesus).
The only sour note for me was the sermon (and why is it always thus?). The minister banged on for a good 30 minutes – at one stage even taking the time to admire his own anger – about the definitive roles of specifically males and females in god’s grand plan, and how modern society ‘distorts’ these. It was a thinly veiled but vicious attack on homosexuality, and it offended me. It was also, in my view, all just a little too much protesting. And you know what Shakespeare had to say about that.
The sermon was, for me, in stark contrast to the fine and beautiful wedding I attended here in Riebeek Kasteel some years ago; and echoed, uncomfortably, the bible-bashing I sat through at another nuptial event.
There was also much good-natured chit-chat about the fact that both bride and groom were virgins. (This state of affairs turned the occasion into – ironically, I would have thought – a somewhat sexually charged one.) My sister, who by then had drunk of the white wine thoughtfully provided, commented that perhaps, after all the build-up, there was always the possibility that the main event would turn out to be disappointing (these things have been known to happen). She was overheard by a nearby guest, who said, smugly, ‘It will be awesome. Jesus will be there.’ (I quote verbatim.) I leave it to you to imagine what having sex for the first time might be like with Jesus looking over your shoulder.
The rest of Saturday
My sister went jolling with our brother, which was a good thing because we see very little of him, living as we do in cities 1 600km apart. I drove the sewing machine back to M’s place through a phenomenal thunderstorm, including forked lightning that struck about with stunning force and regularity, and which made me remember how much I loved growing up in Joburg. And a dinner with M’s family – with whom I largely grew up too – was the perfect way to end the day.
Meeting up with the other M
The other M was my first boyfriend. Before this weekend we hadn’t seen each other for 20 years (although we’ve always kept in contact). And here’s another thing: we all grow older – our experiences change our faces and time changes our bodies; and sometimes just the act of living changes our minds. [This pic: M and me in 1981 - I was 17 years old, M 21.]
But it was so wonderful to finally be in the same room again as this man, who was so important to me when I was a teenager, and to realise that there was quite simply instant (and very loving) recognition. [This pic: Me and M yesterday. I am 46, M is 51.]
Then it was Sunday, and time to go. But first: breakfast with J&S, my sister’s brother-in-law and his partner, in their The Palace at the Lost City house – wherever you look, plush carpets, luxurious satin curtains, orchids and a profusion of greenery, water features, artworks, mirrors, and a baby grand (of course), and all put together in a deceivingly ‘little’ house tucked behind a modest gate, a treasure trove of grace and loveliness. These are two men whose palpable affection and respect for each other – and for their friends and extended families – makes being with them a pleasure. They broke out the family silver for us, ‘royalty from Cape Town’, and the hour we spent with them took the sting out of the minister’s sermon for me.
There are, after all, many ways to love.
Posted by Tracey at Sunday, December 12, 2010