Tag Archives: South Africa

as I get older

I was chatting to someone the other day and began a sentence with, “And as I get older….“, when he interrupted and said “you get wiser“. First of all, I do not like being interrupted. Second, this is NOT what I was going to say. Perhaps he was trying to pay me a compliment. I do not mind compliments (at this stage, I’ll take pretty much any that get thrown my way – I’m weak like that).
But if he’d allowed me to finish my sentence, he would have heard “… I find I am becoming less and less tolerant of selfish, over-privileged people and self-appointed experts – and, what’s even better, I find I am able to express my opinions verbally and directly.” This is something I’ve had trouble with all my life – I was brought up to be polite and to treat others with respect, whether or not that respect was returned. A very deeply engrained survival tactic, which I had mastered by the age of 3, was to keep my mouth shut. Voicing one’s own opinion, however civilly and/or timidly, was the equivalent of navigating a field filled with landmines when I was growing up. Landmines were best avoided by standing in one place.

This is so liberating. What I say may or may not make any difference to the recipient of my intolerance or irritation, but I don’t care about that. I can’t change people’s minds about things and it is not my vocation in life anyway. (When I was 13 and fully indoctrinated by the Sisters of Mercy, I believed my vocation was to become a nun. Thankfully, by the age of 14, I’d discovered Levis, cigarettes, Neil Young, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Kurt Vonnegut and a very attractive young man called Roy who used to ride his bike all the way from Melville to visit me after school every day. We only ever stood at the garden gate talking, but it was enough to make me realise that there was more to life than a narrow bed in an austere cell with a bunch of religious fanatics, no personal freedom and no choice of different outfits). I did have a glow-in-the-dark statue of the Virgin Mary on my shelf, and you could lift Mary up to reveal a little container presumably meant for your rosary. For me, it functioned as an ashtray. It took my mother years to discover the source of the smell of stale stompies. Revolting, I know, but there we are.

I have spent a little time thinking about these things. My conclusion is that the more seriously people take themselves, the more “special” they believe themselves to be. Yes, it is rather simplistic but it is a sufficient explanation for me. Well, guess what? We are all special and, ipso facto, none of us are special. We all have different abilities, interests, opportunities, circumstances; the colour of your skin or the amount of money you have in the bank doesn’t give you the right to think you are better than someone with skin of a different colour or less money or less formal education.

I’ve made a good start lately on this new, more outspoken me, and I like it. I am starting to like me more. I have boundaries. Don’t cross mine and I won’t cross yours (or at least I will try very hard not to, and if I do, I will apologise to you). We are entitled to differing opinions on climate change, psychology, the wisdom of covid vaccinations, critical race theory, capitalism, art, music, religion and politics. We are entitled to these opinions by our Constitution, by the true nature of democracy, and by common decency and the absence of judgement.

But talking about judgement —- right now, most South Africans are entitled to feel wildly and deliriously thrilled by the thought of ex-Prez Jacob Zuma going to jail. It’s supposed to happen today. Only for contempt of court, despite the other 782 million laws he’s broken, but jail is jail. No doubt he’ll be out soon, he’s a wily bastard, but until then he’s going to look really really lousy in orange.

when a negative is a positive

Results of covid test yesterday = negative. Praise be. Result SMSed at 7.00am today. How efficient is that! (I had it done through a private company, not a government institution). AND also good news, my mother (at 84) has finally been given a time slot for her vaccination this week. Here’s our very own Tannie Evita** showing how things are actually getting done in the Western Cape.

My suburb has been without electricity since 10pm last night, it just came back on at 10.15am. It wasn’t useless old Eskom and loadshedding for a change, just scheduled maintenance by the City Council which, let’s face it, is great and what we pay such high rates for. But not when it runs four hours over schedule and PEOPLE NEED COFFEE. I knew some of my neighbours have gas (they’re campers – weird, I know, I’ll never get that, but it takes all sorts) so I resorted to staggering up and down my road when the sun came up in my fluffy gown and furry slippers, whimpering and bleating pathetically and clutching an empty thermos. Two of them came to the rescue and, once my caffeine levels had been restored, I was able to spend some time making a list of the things I ought to spend my Sunday doing. They may also have thought that my appearance lowered the tone of the neighbourhood, but that’s not my problem.

Now that the electricity is back on, and the sun is shining and the birds are singing, I had another look at the list and tore it up. It included ridiculous things like “continue tidying garage” and “weed garden” and “clean car”. None of those things can be done properly with one hand anyway, so I logged onto Facebook and immediately purchased a vintage wrap-over leopard-print jacket that I am convinced I can’t live without. I’m also going to put my walking shoes on and go for a brisk stroll in the park.

** Tannie Evita Bezuidenhout is South Africa’s Dame Edna (although funnier, in my opinion).

time out

I am here: on a farm just outside Ladismith, in the Klein Karoo.

Klein Karoo 3

Klein Karoo 2

Klein Karoo 1

It’s hot and dry, as you can see, but there is no shortage of water because there’s a private dam and a windpump system set up to pump water straight from the surrounding mountains. So, YES, I can run a deep bath without guilt and even extend shower time from 45 seconds to any length of time I feel like….. The exact opposite of what it is like in Cape Town now, as we get closer to DAY ZERO. Level 6 water restrictions will be implemented from next week and we will all be paying a drought levy from February 2018 onwards (based on the value of one’s property). I have mixed feelings about this – on the one hand, Capetonians are all in this together and have to do the best we can to save water, and on the other, 66% of residents are clearly not doing their bit and don’t care that there’s extra cost involved because they are wealthy enough not to feel the impact. The arrogance! I’ll be very amused to see some of those high-and-mighties impatiently queuing at the nearest mountain spring to fill their empty containers along with the rest of the hoi polloi.

In the meantime, from a cool cottage in the Karoo (about 4 hours out of Cape Town), where you must keep your eyes open for cobras and boomslangs when you go for a walk and the doors bolted when you go out because the baboons are way ahead of things like locks and keys, where the loudest sound is the silence of this extraordinary mountain country punctuated by bird calls, and where I am finding some wonderful peacefulness both within me and without, I hope you are all having happy holiday times.

Dear foreign tourists

Welcome to South Africa. Welkom. Wamkelekile. I’m getting to meet so many of you at the craft markets lately, and some of you have travelled really far to visit us – from Portugal, Spain, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, the UK, the US, Belgium, Sweden, Japan…  Thank you very much for coming, for liking what you see, and of course for spending your money here (not all of it goes towards firepools for the president’s personal estate or new Porsche Cayennes for all the top government officials)!

And, let’s be honest, you’re getting great value for your money, aren’t you? Our rand is a poor little sausage compared to your meaty euros and your hearty dollars – so then why why WHY would some of you treat some of us with disrespect?

lion

Why would a tourist from Portugal try to buy something from me at less than the marked price? He wanted a pair of rhino-printed pillow cases, which cost R195 (don’t bother trying to convert that into your currency – believe me, it’s a very reasonable price for a top-quality, handmade, original item). He said, I only have R130 on me – here you go. As it happened, I’d gone to the loo and Rob was holding the fort at the time. He said, It’s R195. If you haven’t got the money, you can’t have it. “But it’s for my wife, she really wants it.” Then your wife must come and buy it. “Okay, okay, what’s your best price?” For you – R250.  Now please leave.  [He did, but came back sheepishly 30 minutes later with the right amount].

Why would an Asian tourist at the Kirstenbosch market pick up a hat that was already on sale and scream Cheaper??? Cheaper??? in my face?  Any cheaper and I’d have to pay him to buy it.

A German couple recently wanted me to make them a huge bedspread with screenprinted designs and very specific colours, in just three days (they were going home for Christmas), and also to deliver it to them at their (second) house in the countryside. I worked out that I could manage it, at a real push, and quoted R1,700 (that’s 115 euros). Apparently it was much too much, and they huffed off. Rob suggested I should maybe have considered doing it for less – since, you know, income is useful for buying food and petrol – so he got this answer: No f**king way. If people don’t want to pay a fair price for something special, then they can’t have it. Or not from me, anyway. I would have resented every second I spent making that bedspread – so totally not worth it!

proudly-sa

Is this common behaviour? Do some people think that haggling is the way things are done at craft markets in Africa? Or that, because they’re not in a fancy shop in a fancy mall, they can get something very special very cheaply? Because it’s not, and they can’t. I know many traders (who also make their stock by hand), and they have similar stories to tell – but the bottom line is that it’s insulting.

Not one single South African customer has EVER asked me for a discount. I do give discounts to fellow crafters, and if I really like someone and they buy more than one item from me, I am happy to reduce the price, unasked. I once offered a discount to a young woman at a market in Tulbagh who bought a hat for herself and one for her friend, and she turned it down – she said she knew how long it takes to crochet, and she wanted to pay the full price. Now that’s classy.

Right. Let me get back to work. I have three markets on this weekend (tomorrow is a public holiday here), and a four-day gift fair next week to prepare for. I’m looking forward to selling to LOVELY new and returning customers, wherever in the world they are from :)

 

when you’d really rather not be making something for someone

Today I’m sending a parcel to someone in Limpopo, the northernmost province in South Africa.  The parcel consists of a BonBon in cranberry, a newsboy (cranberry and black), and a pair of house slippers (not cranberry!)

limpopo

They’re going to someone I know, whose wedding Rob and I attended three years ago, who has two beautiful daughters, two stepchildren, a wonderful husband, a loving extended family, a talent for painting like she’s been trained in fine arts (which she hasn’t), and a good career, at which she works very hard.

Two weeks ago she went to the GP for a check-up, because her right hip felt mildly painful.   Turns out to have been secondary bone cancer (hip, ribs and skull), the primary being breast cancer.  Stage Four.  She’s 43. Today she starts an aggressive course of radiation therapy.  (Interestingly, she has a mammogram every year, the last one in December 2013, eight weeks ago. Nothing was picked up.)

Last night I was reading Deepak Chopra’s book Ageless Body Timeless Mind (1993).  This stayed with me: “Live in the present, for it is the only moment you have. Keep your attention on what is here and now, look for the fullness in every moment. Accept what comes to you totally and completely so that you can appreciate it, learn from it, and then let it go….Don’t struggle against the infinite scheme of things; instead, be at one with it.”

I cannot know how my friend would interpret this right now, or her husband and children and mom but, if I was a prayerful person, I would pray that it is with hope for a cure and a longer, even more beautiful life.

Back soon x