Wednesday, 26 September 2012


Source: via m on Pinterest
So, today I am being interviewed on Nancy Richards' radio show Otherwise, and I am feeling a bit like this cat. Exposed from underneath... the bits that are normally hidden.

Most journalists will tell you that they are most comfortable behind the mike rather than in front of it, asking the questions, directing the flow of conversation and staying anonymous in the final story. An observer rather than a doer.

tLuckily the wonderful Se7en will be on the show with me, and she has all kinds of fascinating information about blogging, and child rearing, and finding time to be yourself while still raising and home schooling eight children.

You can listen online here  and read more about Nancy here and her blog is well worth a read too.

Friday, 21 September 2012

longing for another world

I remember when I was about 10 years old, my brother gave me four books... one was The Hobbit and the others were the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I can still remember him saying that he was envious of me because I would be reading them for the first time. Having read them all more than a few times, I can understand his feelings exactly, and I have enjoyed introducing others to the wonderful world of JRR Tolkien's imagination.

There is something so special about the creation of another world by a mind of great intellect. I have just finished reading The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter, and although it was not a work of anything like the same scale and depth, it filled me with the same kind of nostalgic longing for another world which is as real as this one, but frustratingly just outside my grasp.

(There is a lovely, illustrated biography of Tolkien on this blog .)

Friday, 14 September 2012

Club membership optional

pic from 
So, last night I attended a book club meeting for the first time in my life.

It is hard to believe that I've reached this (hopefully not too) ripe old age, without having belonged to a book club.I love books, I love reading and usually I don't mind people too much. I'm middle aged and middle class so surely I tick all the right book club boxes?

I'm reading William Gibson's book of essays "Distrust that Particular Flavour" (Recommended by Julie at Moments of Perfect Clarity. She has some great excerpts from the book on her blog).

When I got home I was feeling a bit bewildered. It was a nice night. Two people I really like were there, and the other women were interesting and engaging. The food was delicious. the books were great. But something was niggling, and it took Gibson to give me the answer when he wrote:

"In writing speeches, curiously, one sometimes finds out what one thinks, at that moment, about something."

For me, in having a new experience, I was reminded about something that I have always had a problem with, and perhaps why I have never been invited to a book club before.

I don't fit well with groups of women, and I rebel against people who are sticklers for the rules.

It is not that I don't understand the value of rules. In our office I am a major rule maker, and I think that professional boundaries are not a bad thing, as long as there is room for creativity as well. I have been describing it to some of the people who work with us as a tree: the roots all look pretty similar, and they have to be there, but the canopy of each tree is different.

Probably, if I am honest, I don't mind rules as long as I think they are logical. And, of course, I think that all the rules I make are perfectly logical!

So what was the rule that I found most irksome? The one that said that I was not allowed to talk about what I had been reading in case it wasn't a book that was already in the bookclub. I'm still thinking that maybe I misheard it... because try as I might I can't find a reason for it.

But this is my blog, and I am the boss of this space (picture a petulant child, foot stamping optional) so I will tell you that I have just finished The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter and I loved it. The idea of an infinity of parallel earths that can be stepped into (with or without a potato) filled me with longing.

And I'm loving William Gibson too.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Like faded flowers, thrown away: Steve Biko and the Boer women

A Boer woman with her dead child, the last of her children to die, photographed by Emily Hobhouse

The women are wonderful. They cry very little and never complain. The very magnitude of their sufferings, their indignities, loss and anxiety seems to lift them beyond tears… only when it cuts afresh at them through their children do their feelings flash out. Some people in town still assert that the Camp is a haven of bliss. I was at the camp to-day, and just in one little corner this is the sort of thing I found – The nurse, underfed and overworked, just sinking on to her bed, hardly able to hold herself up, after coping with some thirty typhoid and other patients, with only the untrained help of two Boer girls–cooking as well as nursing to do herself. Next tent, a six months’ baby gasping its life out on is mother’s knee. Two or three others drooping sick in that tent. Next, a girl of twenty-one lay dying on a stretcher. The father, a big, gentle Boer kneeling beside her; while, next tent, his wife was watching a child of six, also dying, and one of about five drooping. Already this couple had lost three children in the hospital and so would not let these go, though I begged hard to take them out of the hot tent. I can’t describe what it is to see these children lying about in a state of collapse. It’s just exactly like faded flowers thrown away. And one has to stand and look on at such misery, and be able to do almost nothing.

Having lived in Moorreesburg for the past eight years, I could not help but to know the prejudice and hatred that still exists against English-speaking people in South Africa.  Last night, as I watched Tony Jackman's excellent play "An Audience with Miss Hobhouse" the horror of the concentration camps had a new meaning for me.

Lynita Crofford is clearly on the top of her game, as she morphed between Miss Hobhouse, the Boer woman Tant Alie, assorted troops and war correspondents with the smallest of on-stage costume adjustments.

Tony's superb script had me chuckling and crying and, most importantly, made the experiences of the women stand out in stark reality.

Unfortunately Miss Hobhouse concentrated her efforts on the Boer women and children: it is perhaps a reflection of the times that the thousands of black people who died in separate camps were no more than a blip on her radar.

I left with a better understanding of our history, but less of an understanding of the people who perpetrated such injustices in the years following the South African war. I know that many English-speaking people were complicit in and benefited from apartheid, but its roots were in what was essentially an Afrikaner policy. And I know too that many Afrikaans speaking people were vocal opponents of the system, and suffered for their beliefs.

But today, on the anniversary of the murder of Steve Biko, I am wondering how people who had experienced such cruelty and suffering could have inflicted the same thing on others? The forced removals, the destroying of homes and communities, the deprivation of a nation of their basic human dignity.

And how is it possible that the same people, who remember the English with bitter hatred, are the same people who declare in their arrogant complacency that it has been 18 years and "people should be over apartheid by now".

If you are in Cape Town and want to book for An Audience with Miss Hobhouse, go to the Facebook page  or to

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

since I was last here (part 2)

Akira the cat is very happy to be back in the city. She has undergone a personality change!
The biggest thing that has happened since I was last here is that we have moved away from the countryside. No more Moorreesburg, with all its joys and frustrations.
No more 45 degree celsius summer days.
No more green wheatfields. No more dry, brown, dusty wheatfields.
No more checking up on the farm animals as we drive home.
No more wide open spaces.

We have traded that all in for Table View suburbia and an office for the company at the end of the garden. We are just a few kilometres from the sea, but don't get there often enough.
So far all the things I thought I would do when I was spending less time on the road haven't happened yet, but we are here and I am happy and that matters.

Watching the wreck of the Seli slowly disintegrate has become one of our most relaxing pastimes.
Its like watching paint dry, but with a view

Monday, 10 September 2012

it has been a while...

Since I was last here, I have been here:
Gorree Island, Senegal

Gorree Island, Senegal
walked in the mist with Greg and the dogs
seen spiders near Hermanus

swung over a tranquil pond

attended my school reunion (leg showing in the wind)

been to Ficksburg in the Eastern Freestate

and celebrated my mother's 85th birthday
I don't want to say that I am back... but I might be.
Watch this space... I will be watching too