Friday, April 30, 2010

Music of the Soul

Its in there, waiting to be released and we all have a little of it. It requires a little sensitivity to feel it and a certain lack of sensitivity to enjoy it. The imperfections must slide by unmarked or the rhythm is spoiled. Keep the feeling by losing feeling.

I did it though. I recaptured it last night with my guitar and my voice still rough from disuse. It had moments, definite moments when it was just happening and nothing was forced or contrived. Just a few minutes of self-indulgence and never mind if my fingers stumble a bit or if my voice is just a little cracked. I did it.

It was bad of me. I should have been better company. There's always music available: packaged and produced to perfection. I contribute what is sub-standard and not needed and perhaps unwelcome. Still, it felt good. At odd moments, I like to think that it sounded good too. Some or other critic once said of Wagner 'He has wonderful moments and dreadful half hours.' I'm a bit like that without the inspiration or the skill, but those moments are... transcendent.

The instrument plays itself and I am its instrument, being played. The soul resonates, however briefly and then... self-consciousness. I've been bad. I'll put it aside for now. Till next time.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

First Freedom - then the long road

Yesterday was Freedom day, which meant that all South Africans were free to stay at home instead of working. I suppose that its celebrated properly in some of the more major centers, but on the whole that's what Freedom Day consists of these days - stay at home, maybe get drunk and then spend some time trying to work out what you're supposed to be celebrating.

I remember the first Freedom Day. Most specifically, I remember the run up to it - the paranoia, the violence, the Boipatong massacre, the attempted coup in Bophutatswana - things like that. Most people expected Trouble, but in the end, all the trouble happened before voting day, and the day itself was enlivened by nothing more spectacular than long queues at the voting stations and at the pubs.

I can't believe it was sixteen years ago - young school leavers these days can't even remember the 'old' South Africa. It was much like the new one, but we have a few improvements like freedom of movement and freedom of the press and the cops not being able to arrest you for no reason whatsoever. Oh, and everyone votes these days, except me, I refuse to endorse any of the politicians currently on the SA stage, so I won't vote for anyone and at the same time don't feel strongly enough to vote against any of them either. This might change at some point, but I digress.

The first freedom day. The first 'free and fair' election: I was working at a bush pub in Broederstroom - a second job - I've so often held down two or even three of the things. There was a weekend atmosphere. Some of the patrons were pretty pleased about proper elections, and others weren't. Most were happy to have a day off. Some had already stockpiled cellars full of non-perishable foods and were holding forth about how they'd be the only ones to survive. Turned out they were the only ones to have a few years' supply of baked beans on hand.

In the mean time I was selling pub lunches and beer as if tomorrow wouldn't come (which some believed it wouldn't) before taking an hour off to get to the local voting station and cast my historical (but nonetheless insignificant) vote. I went with three others, and each of us declared the intention to vote for another party. We were perfectly comfortable with that, but we did tease each other a little.

Ah well, in these small ways, history is made. Its rather odd, looking to the present, to see how unaware most South Africans, especially black ones, are of the significance of the day. I even had to remind a few of them that there was a holiday, and then I had to remind them what it was about. Weird, but true. I suppose its human nature to crave what one doesn't have instead of being thankful for what we do have.

So how did I celebrate Freedom day? Built a sand castle and jumped up and down on it, of course! It will be interesting to see how long it takes for our present government to start jumping up and down on the fragile sand castle that is Freedom.

Monday, April 26, 2010


I have nothing in particular to say today. Of course, that makes me like most bloggers, so I needn't be ashamed. I've done a bit of browsing of late, and most blogs seem to be by ladies who'd like you to admire their kids - or not. One (blonde. Why oh why do facts so often re-enforce prejudices?) remarks that strangers will keep commenting on her blog, and she's not happy about it.

Someone ought to tell her that a public forum is not the best place to disclose private information. Since what she has to disclose mostly consist of pictures of sticky-looking kids and remarks from her about how sweet they are and the funny things they say, I can't see her getting too much fame and international notoriety thereby.

Oh well, here's my shot at immortality as seen from the windows of the bus last week. Decided to go African, so there's wild life, the local township (people from elsewhere like seeing townships) and some wonders of engineering (just so people - or person - hiya Ern) don't think South Africa's all wildlife and townships.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Why George isn't Fred

Town's name is George, right? Well, of course it had to do with sucking up to the conquerer of the time, didn't it? Funny place with British-sounding street names: Victoria and Albert streets, appropriately side by side, Meade street, Courtney street and Hope street which runs past the dusty cemetery. Everything that is British, with Afrikaans spoken on every side.
It nestles in greenery surrounded by mountains with the sea just a hop and a skip to the East. It bustles... a little. The older people say that it has grown too big, and the younger ones complain that its too small for there to be much of a night life.

I like it, though. I like the fact that tall buildings aren't allowed, and the streets are lined with Oak, Plane and Maple or shaded by Yellow woods. I like the way you can look up and see the mountains no matter where you are. I like the Chinese shops near the taxi-rank and the street vendors and the colourfulness of the passing parade.

I like Zanzi-bar, a pub with a huge oak tree outside which throws acorns at you while you have your sundowner. That has to be the best thing in George: sitting on the deck and getting pelted with acorns while you enjoy the beer and the breeze and watch the traffic on the York street circle.

When I lived in Malelane, the favorite activity was cuddling the air conditioner and hoping you wouldn't have to go outside. The best thing about that place was not getting Malaria. I like it here, but I still think that George should be Fred.

Friday, April 23, 2010

An ode to beer

Mankind, thy ingenuity shines bright

We have television and electric light

Electronic messages far and near

But best of all, you invented beer

Cars and trucks and boats and planes

Nifty handles instead of toilet chains

Things convenient to give us cheer

But best of all, you invented beer

You have abandoned superstitious mythology

And live in a world of other things ‘ology’

There are new home comforts to hold dear

But best of all, you invented beer

Everything’s newer and better and shiner

We can get cool stuff that’s made in China

The machine gun has replaced the spear

But best of all, you invented beer

So join me now in cheerful chorus

Beer is by us, beer is for us

Shout it loud so all can hear

‘Mankind has invented beer!’

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My family has gone mad. Not that they weren’t a bit odd to start with. I found out this week that my brother, besides being a religious fundamentalist (Which he’s been for years) is now an extreme right winger. Not nice, especially in South Africa.

Last time I was visiting mum, it was to find that she has turned creationist – fully creationist. The world was made in seven days and isn’t more than a few thousand years old, any evidence to the contrary. She’s also started believing in hell as the spiritual destination of anyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus. Its difficult having a conversation with her sometimes.

My dad went dilly first, dumping my step mum (who I never liked anyway) and running off with his childhood sweetheart aged seventy. I thought it was kind of cute, actually.

Now my dad might be a septenergarian Lothario and my mum might declare the earth to be flat tomorrow and I can live with that, but my brother has always been hard to stomach and will be worse now. Religious fanaticism coupled with extreme political orientations has always been a dangerous combination, and now my brother’s one of them. I wonder how he’s rationalizing the idea that God loves everyone except black people.

I know I grew up in this family, but goodness knows, I ain’t one of them. I had that feeling when I was in my teens, but that’s normal for teenagers. Everyone knows that no-one understands them, least of all their families. Now I’m forty and I’ve got that feeling all over again. Mid life crisis? But then I’m not the one who’s suddenly taken up extreme religious and political philosophies.

Could be I’m a bit like my dad on the surface, but then Dad has always been a rabid rightwinger and a dreadful religious conservative in matters that don’t apply directly to him.

At least one thing is proven to my satisfaction – political and religious proclivities are not genetic, nor can irrational behaviors become so ingrained that they seem rational. I should know. I’ve been marinated in such notions since birth it would seem, and I still think them nutty.

The funny thing about all this, is that I’m the black sheep of the family. Go figure.

I’m sure it shouldn’t be allowed: a long distance bus company that pipes sermons and C-grade God-TV for the duration of the journey. Still, if one’s to get from George to the bright lights (two or three of them, arranged along the highway) of Riviersonderend and one doesn’t trust one’s car not to disintegrate along the way, long-distance bus it must be. Going to visit mum is a labour of love, and it starts here: five hours in the flatulent interior of a city-liner with only one smoke break – and god TV.

It was in full spate when I boarded. You can always tell, even before you hear the words, when an evangelist is holding forth. He might have a microphone in his hand, but that doesn’t stop him yelling. You can tell its not prize-fight commentary, because there’d be more cheering in between if it was, and no commentator would dare to harangue in quite such an aggressive tone. Someone might punch him.

The sound of roaring and rowing became intelligible (if not intelligent) as I made my way to the top deck, found my seat, balanced my computer bag on my feet in the limited floor space between one seat and the next and began digging frantically for my MP3 player.

Angus, the darling of those South Africans who need evangelists to shout at them, was holding forth: microphone clutched in one hand, throat swollen like a bullfrog from high-decibel projection, ten-gallon hat perched manfully on thinning hair and with the light of fanaticism (or spiritual inspiration, depending on how you feel about this sort of thing) gleaming from his rheumy eyes…

You mightn’t be listening, but by God, you’re going to hear it courtesy of Intercape Mainliners (don’t they know what a mainliner is? I checked the driver, but he looks ok. Stewardess is a bit skinny though).

At the time I took my seat, Angus was exhorting us to go to our closets and cry out to God. He even looked up what a ‘closet’ is: ‘a small room where you retreat in complete privacy’. Nice one Angus, haven’t you heard of a ‘Water closet’ aka ‘WC’? I’m assuming this is the only sort of closet you or anyone in your congregations have at home.

He went on to admit that he has a closet at home (just as well, really – eternal torment without relief is supposed to happen only after death), and that he speaks to God in it every day. Oh, I know about that. I’ve spoken to God in the closet loads of times, I’m sure that many people would know the sort of occasion I refer to and have done the same. There are lots of things that may cause one to call out to God while in the closet. I’m glad to hear its such a devout exercise, I really am.

At this point I get the MP3 player working and Archenemy start yelling at me instead. As far as I can understand, they aren’t exhorting me to go to the closet, which is good because the closet on a long-distance bus is, indeed a place of penance and to be avoided if at all possible. I smile up at Angus who now appears to be doing a rendition of ‘Silverwing’ with great gusto. Onwards, then! The road beckons.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Flowery thoughts

Thinking doesn’t, by and large, do one much good. Especially not when you use your grey matter to ponder imponderables, unscrew the inscrutable and so on. It doesn’t really work.

Of course, if you’re thinking about simple things, such as whether to go for a drink after work or not, it can be quite productive, but thinking for thinking’s sake is a waste of time, much like blogging, which is why I am going to blog.

I like wasting time. Navel contemplation is not for me unless the funny spirally bit gains a whole new significance that is currently not apparent. I’m not going to rule it out, but for the present, other thoughts hold greater fascination such as this one:

Why, oh why do certain people recognize that sex in plants is beautiful, but think that sex among humans is somehow obscene? People drape churches, brides, homes and gardens with the flamboyant sex organs of plants: stamens standing out stiffly, girly bits exuding stickiness, framed with petals that cry out ‘Look at me! I want to do the wild thang!’; but get all uptight about nudity.

I’m not proposing that people start running around in the altogether, screwing in public the way plants do, but I do think its an odd double standard to appreciate flowers and in the same brain harbor the thought that sex is somehow ‘yukky’.

In my opinion, they’re just not thinking. They might have some idea of what flowers are for, but they haven’t made the cross over from theory to practice. If they had, there wouldn’t be a prude alive who would be able to face a flower. There’d be censorship (don’t let the children see it!), shock and horror. They haven’t heard how lasciviously the bees buzz on a summer’s day.

I have. I think. I think about things like this, and much good may it do me!